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What Is the Difference Between an Electrocardiogram and an Echocardiogram?

What Is the Difference Between an Electrocardiogram and an Echocardiogram?

When you have unusual symptoms that may relate to your heart, such as shortness of breath or palpitations, diagnostic testing may be needed. Electrocardiograms and echocardiograms are two of the most common tests.

At Chinatown Cardiology, with four New York City locations, our heart care specialists offer both tests in-office to learn more about the function of your heart. The tests may sound similar, but there are key differences.

An overview of EKGs and echocardiograms

An electrocardiogram (EKG) and echocardiogram are noninvasive diagnostic tests that diagnose heart-related (cardiac) issues.


An EKG measures your heart’s electrical activity. The technology translates the information into a graph that our team interprets.


An echocardiogram, or echo, uses ultrasound technology to create pictures of your heart. High-frequency sound waves move through your skin and echo (bounce off) the structures of your heart. The waves return to the device to produce a multidimensional image of your heart.

Typically, when you have symptoms like chest pain, dizziness, or heart palpitations, our team completes an EKG first to learn more about the electrical activity of your heart. If your EKG results don’t provide enough information for a diagnosis, we perform an echocardiogram.

Differences between an EKG and echocardiogram

There are several differences between EKGs and echocardiograms, including:

How they’re performed

EKGs and echocardiograms are noninvasive, but they’re performed in different ways. During an EKG, we attach small electrodes to the surface of your skin. The electrodes have wires that connect to a device that records your heart’s electrical activity.

During an echo, we apply a gel to your chest wall and move a hand-held transducer over the area. The transducer delivers sound waves into your body, and the sound waves bounce off your heart to create pictures.

As neither procedure is invasive, no recovery period is needed, and you can go back to your usual activities without any limitations after your test.

How long they last

An EKG only takes a few minutes. It takes longer to place the sensors than to record the information about your heart.

An echocardiogram can last up to an hour. Our technicians ensure they capture clear images of your heart before completing the test.

What information they provide

An EKG and echocardiogram provide different diagnostic details.

You may need an EKG to identify:

An echocardiogram can provide diagnostic details about congenital heart disease, heart infection (endocarditis), and valve disease. An echo can also confirm blood clots, tumors, and aneurysms.

Working with your cardiac specialist

If you have existing heart disease, EKGs and echocardiograms may already be a part of your treatment plan.

If you’re experiencing unusual cardiac symptoms for the first time, you can rely on our experienced cardiologists to guide you through the testing process. Ahead of your visit, we can explain the type of test you need and what to expect to ease any anxieties.

To learn more about the diagnostic benefits of an EKG or echocardiogram, call Chinatown Cardiology at one of our convenient locations in Manhattan, Queens, and Brooklyn, or book an appointment online today.

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