Both the electrocardiogram (EKG) and the echocardiogram (echo) are tests used to determine the health of the heart. When it comes down to the difference between an echocardiogram and an electrocardiogram, both tests can identify problems with the heart’s valves, muscle and rhythm; however, an EKG measures the electrical activity in the heart, while the echo uses ultrasound to take a picture of it. It can show the internal structure of the heart and how well the blood flows through it. The EKG and the echo are both non-invasive tests that involve minimal discomfort, if any at all.
How Are They Administered?
During an EKG, a medical professional will attach electrodes to the patient’s chest and other parts of their body. The electrodes are attached to wires that feed the EKG’s results into a machine that prints them out in the form of waves. A normal result is one that shows the heart beating steadily at 60 to 100 times per minute.
An EKG typically takes five to ten minutes. The patient will have to stay still and breathe normally for most of the test. They may be asked to lie flat on their back and/or hold their breath to help the professional get a better reading.
An echocardiogram is also a quick test that requires the patient to be still. They will, however, be asked to lie on their side. The medical professional will smear a cool gel on their chest and wave a wand-like instrument called a transducer that sends out sound waves. They echo back and produce a picture of the heart. Both tests are outpatient procedures performed at our office.
When is an EKG Used?
The doctor will order an EKG if the patient is showing symptoms of heart disease. They may also order an EKG if the patient is undergoing chemotherapy, for some of the drugs used can cause heart problems, most notably congestive heart failure in which the heart does not pump enough blood to the rest of the body.
The doctor might also order an EKG to check for any of the following:
• Damage to the heart’s tissues
• Chemical or electrolyte imbalances
• An irregular heartbeat
• Enlarged or thickened muscles in the walls of the heart’s chambers
When is an Echocardiogram Used?
The doctor is likely to order an echo for cancer patients before, during or after treatment. They will use the echo to check for any of the following:
• Blood clots within the vessels of the heart
• Deficiencies in the heart’s ability to pump blood
• Signs of past heart attacks or other heart disease
• Defects in the heart’s valves
The doctor may also order an echocardiogram if the patient has an EKG that shows abnormal results, for the echo can provide a more detailed look at the heart than the EKG can.
Which Test is Right for Me?
If you are experiencing abnormal heart symptoms and are wondering the difference between an echocardiogram and an electrocardiogram to know which test is right for you, schedule an appointment at Cardiology Consultants of Southwest Florida in Fort Myers. Our team of qualified experts will be happy to answer any questions you may have. Contact us today to request a consultation to learn more.