A&K Global Health Blog

How do you diagnose heart disease?

Mar 20, 2017 / A&K Global Health

Here at the “Cardiac Care 101” corner of the A&K Global Health blog, we’ve recently been sharing about how the heart works and how to recognize and treat the most common heart diseases. These posts often reference the two most common cardiac diagnostic tools: ECGs and echoes. Today, we explain what these terms mean, what information these tests provide to doctors, and what the test experience involves for patients.

What is an ECG (electrocardiogram)?

An ECG detects heart abnormalities. It records the electrical activity of the heart, and can detect any abnormal rhythm (arrhythmia), infarct (heart attack), or hypertrophy (enlargement) of the heart. Although it may look scary with all the metal electrodes stuck to the arms, legs, and chest, the test is both painless and harmless. Wires from these electrodes are connected to the ECG machine, which detects the electrical activity that occurs at each heartbeat. This activity is then recorded onto a paper, allowing doctors to make a diagnosis.

What is an echo (echocardiogram)?

An echo takes a picture of the heart using high-frequency sound waves. This picture shows the shape and size of the valves and the heart chambers, the functioning of the heart, and the blood flow. Like the ECG, this is also a painless test where some gel is placed on the patient’s chest, and a probe (transducer) is moved over the chest to view the heart from different directions.

Have questions? Have a disease, treatment, or medical topic you’d like to learn about? Comment on this post to let us know.

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