Heart disease, heart attack, high blood pressure: heart health is one primary concern of almost every individual. Research shows that, since 2016, 28.2 million people have been diagnosed with cardiovascular diseases in the USA. The mortality rate: nearly 655,000 Americans die from heart disease every year. To diagnose heart-related issues, doctors usually give many tests. Among them, echocardiogram (echo) and electrocardiogram (ECG, EKG) are the most common. Now you may ask, what are the differences between electrocardiography (ECG) and echocardiography? Though they sound similar, they are two different tests. An electrocardiogram measures the pattern of electric pulses generated by the heart’s rhythm, whereas an echocardiogram uses sound waves to check the structure of your heart.
What is an Electrocardiogram?
Electrocardiogram, aka EKG or ECG, is a standard non-invasive heart monitoring test that measures your heart’s rhythm and electrical activity. Usually, the activity of your heart traces out on graph paper specially designed for electrocardiogram.
How Does EKG work?
Every time your heart beats, it creates an electrical impulse that travels through your heart to help the heart pump blood. Doctors run EKG (ECG) to check if your heart’s electrical activity is regular or unusual. Usually, the electrical rhythm of your heart is traced in the form of waves on the graph. A healthy heart will provide consistent shapes of waves as a result. When the waves are inconsistent or irregular, this indicates heart disease. However, cardio exercises or energy supplements can also fluctuate heartbeats.
What is An Echocardiogram?
An echocardiogram, aka Echo, is an ultrasound of your heart that takes a multi-dimensional picture of your heart activity. How Does EKG work?
An Echo is a more advanced, accurate, and non-invasive medical test where high-frequency sound waves are sent to the body. These waves bounce off or ‘echo’ back off your heart and produce an image of the entire heart structure.
What is an echocardiogram used to diagnose?
Doctors usually recommend an echocardiogram to detect issues with the structure of the heart and its function. It can also predict impending heart problems if you have any. Echocardiogram also allows the doctors to observe a live feed of a beating heart. It helps them record important functional data about your heart.
When Do You Need EKG and Echocardiogram?
Electrocardiography and echocardiography both are standard and crucial tests for your heart health. However, what are the differences between echocardiograms and EKGs, and when do doctors usually suggest them?
Reasons for An EKG
Your healthcare provider can suggest you an electrocardiogram if you have any sign and symptoms of heart disease. However, if you have a family history of heart problems, your doctor may request the test.
The usual symptoms that need an EKG are:
- Chest pain
- Chest tightness
- Trouble exercising
- Dizziness or confusion
- Fast heartbeats
Doctors suggest an EKG for the following reasons too:
- Heart palpitations
- Checking on the status of a pacemaker
- Examining heart health after a coronary incident
- Blocked or narrowing arteries
Reasons For An Echocardiogram
Your doctor will prescribe an echocardiogram if your EKG results come abnormal. However, there are other reasons for which your doctor may order an Echo. The reasons include:
- To diagnose valvular heart disease.
- To diagnose congenital cardiovascular disease.
- To identify myocardial infarction in its initial stages
- To detect cardiomyopathies like expanded cardiomyopathy and hypertrophic cardiomyopathy
- Family history of heart attacks
- Previous heart attack experienced by the patient
- To detect irregular heart rhythm
- To measure the pressure inside your lungs
5 Differences Between Ekg and Echocardiogram
Electrocardiograms and echocardiograms are both non-invasive medical tests that monitor heart health. However, there are differences between EKG and Echo.
Let’s find the five significant differences between echocardiogram and electrocardiogram.
Differences of Method and Instruction
Both EKG and Echo are used to check different forms of heart diseases. However, their main difference lies in their method, instruction, and techniques. An EKG measures the electrical system of your heart, where an Echo examines the structural and functional method of your heart.
In an Electrocardiogram, doctors or technicians attach 10 small electrodes on various spots on your chest wall. The wires are usually attached to the EKG machine. Sticky pads record heart activity via electrical activity and interpret it on the tracing graph.
For a few male patients, sometimes doctors may ask for chest hair shaving to place the pads properly to get the excellent tracing.
In an Echocardiogram, you need to lie on a table specially prepared to perform the test. You also need to wear a unique gown for the examination and lie on your left side with your left arm near your head.
The doctors or technicians then apply ultrasound gel on the chest wall. Afterward, they place the ultrasound probes on the chest and take pictures of your heart and valve structure. The technician uses a moving device, transducer, over the chest that is attached to a monitor. In the monitor, the doctor captures images of your heart. After the test, you clean the gel and wait for your result.
Differences of Time
How long does it take to perform the tests? Well, timing is also a difference between electrocardiography (ECG) and echocardiography.
In an Electrocardiography, the test will take only 5 minutes to perform. In these 5 minutes, most of the time is spent applying the leads, and doctors need only a few seconds to generate the tracing.
In an Echocardiography, 20-minute is a minimum. Among the 20, 5 minutes is preparation time and 15 minutes is for imaging. However, the test may take more time to complete depending on specific information that the doctor needs.
Differences of Affordability, Availability, and Averageness
Both EKG and Echo are considered non-invasive cardiac testing where you feel no pain. Both are tests commonly suggested by doctors; however, Echo is not as common as EKG.
An ECG or EKG is efficient, low-maintenance, and more affordable for many patients. Doctors usually suggest this test for almost everyone who has symptoms of heart disease. Even if you don’t have any symptoms but have a cardiovascular disease history in the family, EKG is the first diagnosis to go for.
An Echo is also common and affordable; however, doctors don’t order an Echo unless you have any concrete symptoms of heart disease. If your EKG result comes abnormal, doctors also call an Echo to detect the issue altogether.
Differences of Detecting
An EKG is the electrical reading, and an Echo is the mechanical reading of your heart. Therefore, the detection and discoveries also have differences between echocardiograms and EKGs.
An EKG detects the following:
- Irregular heartbeats or arrhythmias
- Coronary artery disease
- Hypertrophy or cardiomyopathy: thick or enlarged heart muscles
- Heart failure
- Heart block
- Pericarditis, an infection or inflammation of the fluid around the heart
- Inborn heart defects
- Valvular disease
An Echo detects the following:
- Overall heart function
- The origin of irregular heart sounds or murmurs
- Monitor pressures inside the heart chambers
- Check for damages after a heart attack
- Measurements of the heart muscle and size of the heart
- The fitness of the heart valves
- Blood clots or tumors inside the heart
- Examine the capacity of synthetic heart valves
- Look for fluid around the heart
Differences of Detailing
What does an echocardiogram show that an EKG doesn’t? Accuracy. Yes, an EKG is an affordable and quick test to monitor your heart condition; it’s not always accurate.
An EKG provides limited comprehensive information that is more often related to impending heart attacks. The tracing technique shows cardiologists about the peaks and dips of the heart rhythm on a sequential timeline.
An Echo provides profoundly accurate information about the overall structure and function of your heart. It shows a colored video image of the heart, encircling veins and blood vessels.
Red, blue, and yellow light represents the numerous chambers and exterior walls of the heart. The test gives accurate information about a weakening heartbeat, about vessels that are pinched, blocked, or clogged, and the structure’s integrity as a whole.
How EKG and Echocardiogram Complement Each Other?
Though there are several differences between echocardiogram and EKG, they work together like Holmes and Watson. An electrocardiogram collects information on your heart quickly and provides it in an apparent orderly fashion. It helps the doctors to review the results in the shortest time to consider the following action. If you have chest pain and your EKG shows a possible heart attack, blockage, or abnormal tracing, your doctor will order an echocardiogram, a more in-depth and accurate test. If EKG is the clue provider, an echocardiogram is a detailed and accurate information collector.
Heart disease is crucial and needs regular monitoring. Electrocardiograms and echocardiograms are both familiar and useful diagnostic tests for measuring heart condition. However, there are some differences between echocardiograms and electrocardiograms. An EKG studies your heart’s electrical system; an echocardiogram (Echo) checks your heart’s mechanical system. If you face any heart disease symptoms or check-up with your heart issues, It’s time to make an appointment with Dr. David Nazarian. He will happily help you identify your heart issues with excellent proficiency.