Published : June 10, 2024

Difference Between ECG vs ECHO

Have you ever wondered about the difference between an ECG and an ECHO? If you’ve had a heart checkup or are curious about heart health, these two tests might sound familiar. While both focus on your heart, they do very different things. Let’s break down what sets them apart.

ECGs and Echocardiograms

Electrocardiograms (ECG or EKG)

You might have seen this on TV shows—those little sticky pads placed on your chest that create a line on a screen. An ECG is like a quick snapshot of your heart’s electrical activity. It records the electrical signals that make your heart beat, helping doctors detect irregular heart rhythms (arrhythmias).

How Does it Work? It’s painless! Electrodes (those sticky pads) are placed on your chest, arms, and legs. These electrodes pick up your heart’s electrical signals, which are then displayed on a monitor as a wave pattern.

Different Types of ECG

  • Resting ECG : This is the most common type, done while you’re lying down.
  • Stress ECG : Doctors use this to see how your heart responds to exercise.
  • Holter Monitor : This is a portable ECG you wear for a day or two to record your heart’s activity over time.

Echocardiograms (ECHO)

This one’s a bit like getting an ultrasound of your heart. It creates a moving picture of your heart, showing its size, shape, and how well it’s pumping. This helps doctors find problems with the heart’s structure or valves.

How Does it Work? A technician will put some gel on your chest and then use a device called a transducer to send sound waves into your chest. The sound waves bounce back, and the echoes are turned into pictures of your heart on a screen.

Different Types of ECHO

  • Transthoracic Echocardiogram (TTE) : This is the most common and standard type of echocardiogram. It’s performed by placing a transducer (a small device that emits sound waves) on your chest. These sound waves bounce off your heart structures, and the echoes are converted into detailed images. TTE is non-invasive, painless, and provides a comprehensive assessment of your heart’s size, shape, valve function, and overall pumping ability.
  • Transesophageal Echocardiogram (TEE) : When a more detailed view of your heart is needed, particularly of the valves or the back of the heart, a TEE might be recommended. This involves passing a small transducer down your throat and into your oesophagus (the tube connecting your mouth to your stomach). While it requires some preparation and mild sedation, it offers a closer look at your heart structures and is especially useful for detecting blood clots, valve infections, or specific heart defects.
  • Stress Echocardiogram : This type of ECHO is used to assess how well your heart functions under stress. It’s performed both at rest and during exercise (usually on a treadmill or stationary bike) or after medication is administered to simulate the effects of exercise. The goal is to see how your heart responds to an increased workload and identify any potential issues that might not be apparent during a resting ECHO. Stress echocardiograms are particularly valuable in diagnosing coronary artery disease and evaluating the effectiveness of certain treatments.

By understanding the different types of ECHO, you can have a more informed discussion with your doctor about which option might be most appropriate for your specific needs and health concerns.

What are the Differences Between ECG and ECHO?

The main difference is what they measure:

ECG (Electrocardiogram) : Looks at the electrical activity of your heart.
ECHO (Echocardiogram) : Looks at the physical structure and function of your heart.

Think of it like this: an ECG is like listening to your heart’s rhythm, while an ECHO is like looking at a picture of it.

How are the ECGs and Echocardiogram Tests Done?

Both tests are non-invasive, meaning nothing enters your body. ECGs are quick and painless, while ECHOs take a bit longer but are also painless.

When Do You Need ECGs and ECHOs?

ECGs: Electrocardiograms (ECGs) are often recommended if you experience symptoms like chest pain, palpitations (feeling your heart race or skip beats), dizziness, or shortness of breath. Doctors also use ECGs to monitor existing heart conditions, assess the effectiveness of medications, or check for any heart-related issues before surgery. ECGs are particularly good at detecting arrhythmias, which are irregularities in your heart’s rhythm. They can also help diagnose heart attacks by revealing patterns of damage in the heart muscle.

ECHOs: Echocardiograms (ECHOs) are invaluable tools for visualising the heart’s structure and function. If you have a heart murmur, unexplained shortness of breath, fatigue, or swelling in your legs, your doctor might recommend an ECHO. They’re used to diagnose a wide range of conditions, including heart valve problems (leaky or narrowed valves), heart failure (when the heart can’t pump blood effectively), congenital heart defects (present at birth), and cardiomyopathies (diseases of the heart muscle). ECHOs can also help monitor the progression of these conditions over time.

Are There any Side Effects of ECGs and ECHOs?

Both tests are safe and have no known side effects. In rare cases, some people might feel mild discomfort from the gel used during an ECHO.


ECGs and ECHOs are crucial for maintaining heart health. Understanding their differences helps you comprehend your doctor’s advice and actively manage your heart health. Dr. Chetan Rathi, a respected cardiologist in Nagpur, India, exemplifies dedication to advancing cardiac care and improving patient outcomes. With extensive experience, he is renowned for his expertise, compassion, and commitment to excellence.

FAQ’s of Difference between ECG & ECHO

Which is better: echo or ECG?

Neither is “better.” They both provide different information about your heart’s health. Your doctor will recommend the right test based on your specific needs.

Is ECG required when ECHO is normal?

Even with a normal ECHO, your doctor might recommend an ECG to check for rhythm problems.

Can ECG and echo detect heart blockage?

While an ECG can indicate potential blockages, an ECHO can show the extent and location of a blockage.

What is the cost of an ECG and an echo?

The cost can vary depending on where you live and your insurance.

Can anxiety alter the results of an echocardiogram?

Anxiety can temporarily increase your heart rate, but it doesn’t usually affect the structural information that an ECHO provides.