EKG Vs Echo….What is the Difference? by Mona Oyos
You recently visited your doctor, and after your heart and lungs were listened to, an EKG and Echo were ordered to evaluate your heart.
For most “first timers” who are experiencing this, due to the heart being such a vital organ, find themselves alarmed.
The intent of differentiating the 2 tests is to alleviate any possibility of alarm and provide some confidence in what you will be experiencing.
First, let’s start with the heart itself:
While the heart has been discovered to be an organ of multiple systems, we will focus on the common belief that it functions as a pumping device. Its ability to pump includes an electrical system and a mechanical system. For optimal efficiency both work together hand in hand!
EKG or ECG: (Electrocardiogram)
|An Example of a 12 Lead ECG
Each cell in the heart has its own intact electrical system, capable of electrical activity.
The EKG relays and registers the electrical activity detected from the surface of the skin, on paper, to show the electoral landscape of your heart. The electrical signals are sent to the machine through electrodes connected to several points on your body.
Upon viewing the EKG, a diagnosis is made regarding the health of your heart and may indicate further testing is needed.
When the heart or any individual cardiac cell exerts itself to be electrical, it is said to depolarize, which causes contraction. Most know that the heart relaxes and contracts – the electrical activity is the trigger for this behaviour that is dependent on the health of muscle and the pressure and volumes of blood within the heart.
The Mechanical System
In addition to electrical depolarization, the pumping mechanism of the heart requires pressure and volume.
Diagnostic information can be gained from your doctor listening to your heart, often with a stethoscope (called auscultation) and from the EKG; however, there is additional testing that can provide a more conclusive view of the heart’s mechanical system.
Echo: (Echocardiogram, Cardiac Scan, Cardiac Ultrasound, Cardiogram, Transthorasic echo)
Here, like the EKG, information is picked up through the skin. It differs because it uses sound waves to “see” inside the heart. The information is transmitted through your skin and a transducer onto a computer screen.
Within echocardiography, the EKG is also used as a guide used to attain measurements when the heart contracts and expands. A classic four chamber view of the heart attained by an Echocardiogram can be seen below.
The images and measurement obtained during an echocardiogram provide much more information about the heart structure and mechanics than the EKG.
These measurements are all analysed along side family history and other test results – further determining the health of the heart. This may be conclusive in diagnosis or dismissing a heart condition – or it may pave the way for further testing.
Biggest Benefits of Both the EKG and Echo:
They are both non-invasive and painless
They establish a baseline for an individual person – very important for documenting changes.
They help establish protocols for treatment or healing
For any test you receive, be pro-active by obtaining the reports from the tests.
Should you change doctors, you have previous documentation of a baseline study of your heart.
For 30+ years, Mona Marie Oyos continues to practice in the field of cardiology as an echocardiographer and health care consultant- seeing thousands of patients with all kinds of heart disease, researching, and working with medical device companies! Contact her @ http://monaoyos.com
I would like to thank Mona for this excellent article – I always think of an EKG as an electrical diagnostic on a car. Plugging in a tool and checking the workings of the car electrically. The ECHO would be looking under the bonnet (hood) to see if the engine is falling apart!
Thanks for Reading 🙂
Image courtesy of [Boians Cho Joo Young] / FreeDigitalPhotos.net