Since the words electrocardiogram and echocardiogram sound somewhat alike, it is easy to confuse one for the other. Some people may even unknowingly use the two terms interchangeably. However, they are not the same. They are two entirely different tests, even though both are used to monitor the activities of the heart.
The heart is a complicated organ that requires multiple systems in order to work as it should. There is an electrical system and a mechanical system. Think for a moment about an electric pump that is used to pump water through a pipeline. It needs electrical power in order to turn on the pump and to keep it running. It also needs a mechanical system to physically force the water through the pipes. This could include things like impellers that rotate to keep the water moving. In essence, there is the electrical energy present along with the mechanical pumping action. The heart is like that, only it is much more complicated than a water pump.
In order for the heart to pump blood through the body, its muscles must contract and relax alternatively. It is the heart’s electrical system that causes it to do this. These electrical currents are what keep the heart going. An electrocardiogram is a way of monitoring the electrical action for each of the heart’s four chambers. It is done by attaching electrodes to various places on the skin. It is frequently one of the first things done when someone is complaining of chest pains in order to detect a possible heart attack.
Electrocardiograms can be done at various intervals to see how patients with heart conditions are progressing. For individuals with pacemakers, the test results can help doctors determine how well the pacemaker is working.
An echocardiogram is conducted by using ultrasound to look at the mechanical function of the heart. In other words, doctors can see the pumping action of each of the heart’s chambers on a computer screen with the use of the echocardiogram. By watching the heart work, they can determine its pumping efficiency, look at its size and detect other abnormalities. Doctors can tell more about the physical attributes with an echocardiogram than they can with an electrocardiogram, even though they often use one in conjunction with the other.
Neither of the two tests causes any actual discomfort, as both are completely non-invasive. Both tests are frequently used as a baseline by which future changes will be compared. For pacemaker patients, this is vital data that is needed to monitor the improvements in heart function that can be attributed to the pacemaker.
If you have particular questions about how either test is used in your medical care, you should bring them to the attention of our cardiologist in Fort Myers. That way, you can be shown exactly what is going on in your unique situation. Cardiology Consultants of Southwest Florida in Fort Myers is here to help with all of your cardiology and vascular needs.