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Can You Know ECG vs EKG: Is There a Difference

After evaluating your overall health, the doctor will order a common diagnostic test to study your heart’s function. One doctor may order an EKG, while the doctor next door may order an ECG.

Are they the same test, or are they different? Why did the doctor order the test in the first place?

Keep reading as we explain ECG vs EKG tests and what you need to know about them.

ECG vs EKG: Are They the Same?

Here’s the short answer: Yes, an ECG test and an EKG test are the same things. They’re merely two different abbreviations based on two different spellings.

In English, the test is called an electrocardiogram (ECG). However, the German spelling is elektrokardiogramm (EKG). Since we’re not in a German-speaking country, why would an American doctor use “EKG” instead of “ECG?”

The main reason is to avoid confusion between an ECG and an electroencephalogram, or EEG. This is another common diagnostic test used to measure brain waves. It also helps to distinguish the test from an echocardiogram, which is an ultrasound of the heart.

What Is an EKG Test?

You’ve seen EKG waves on a hospital monitor. But what exactly does the test measure, and how does it work?

An EKG measures the electrical activity of a patient’s heart. With every beat, electrical impulses travel through the patient’s heart. These impulses cause the heart to contract, which circulates blood around the body.

When your doctor orders an EKG or ECG, they’re measuring these electrical impulses and looking for any irregularities. The test can help them to diagnose blockages, arrhythmia, heart failure, a silent heart attack, and many other conditions.

If you’re feeling anxious about the test, take a deep breath. An EKG test is a completely painless procedure that takes just a few minutes. Here’s an overview of what to expect:

  • You’ll lie on a table in the doctor’s office
  • You’ll remove or unbutton your shirt
  • The doctor will attach tiny electrode sensors to your chest, arms, and legs
  • A computer will record and print out your heart’s electrical activity
  • The doctor will remove the electrodes from your skin

That’s it! You don’t have to do anything special to prepare for an EKG test and you can immediately return to your normal activities.

There is one variation to the standard EKG test described above. It’s called an exercise EKG, where you wear the same painless electrodes while you run on a treadmill or pedal on a stationary bike. Your doctor may order this test to look for any abnormal changes in heart activity while you exercise.

EKG vs ECG: Class Dismissed

It’s easy to get confused when dealing with medical acronyms like ECG vs EKG. 

As we’ve discussed, they’re simply two different spellings for the same diagnostic test. It’s a quick, painless procedure, so don’t be alarmed if your doctor wants you to get one. You’ll be one step closer to a diagnosis and the treatment plan you need to improve your heart health.

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