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What is ECG vs. EKG?

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Quick Answer

ECG and EKG are both acronyms for electrocardiogram. This is a test for problems with the electrical activity of the heart, which triggers the heart muscle to contract and pump blood through the arteries. Doctors may order an EKG to diagnose the cause of arrhythmia (irregular beat), heart attack or heart failure, according to WebMD.

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A doctor may order an EKG for a patient who shows signs or symptoms of possible heart conditions, including chest pain, irregular heartbeat, problems with breathing, fatigue, weakness or strange sounds when the heart is monitored through a stethoscope. An EKG can also be used to measure the effectiveness of medication or a pacemaker, according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.

Patients who have high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes and those who are smokers or have a family history of early heart disease are candidates for an EKG. An EKG can be part of a routine physical exam, or it could be used to formulate a treatment plan. The test is painless and can be administered in the doctor's office. The doctor may order more than one EKG test to help reach a definitive diagnosis. Hospitalized patients can be monitored by continuous EKG, called telemetry, according to WebMD.

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