Cardiogram (ECG): Definition and Uses

Cardiogram (ECG): Definition and Uses

This article talks about echocardiograms, their definition and their uses. It briefly outlines the symptoms under which an ECG is to be performed, its interpretation, various types of ECGs, and the difference between echo- and electro-cardiogram.

An electrocardiogram refers to a picture of the electrical conduction of the heart. Hence, when changes are examined on ECG, doctors and clinicians can adequately identify a range of cardiac diseases. This article will elaborate on the definition of a cardiogram (ECG) and its uses.

Definition of Cardiogram (ECG)

An echocardiogram refers to a painless and relatively simple procedure where an ultrasound image of the heart is produced through which clinicians can diagnose a range of heart diseases. Echocardiography uses ultrasonic waves to create a picture of the heart called an echo. It is mainly used for determining the thickness of the chambers, functioning of the valves, and detection of blood clots and many other elements. There are various types of echocardiograms which we will discuss in the further sections.

Symptoms that point to an ECG 

A doctor generally recommends a cardiogram (ECG) when people experience symptoms like pain in the chest, trouble breathing, being tired or weak, or detection of unusual sounds. 

Conditions when an Echocardiogram is Used

An echocardiogram is used to diagnose and monitor certain heart conditions by carefully checking the heart structure, the conditions of the blood vessels surrounding the heart, analysing how blood would flow through them, and assessing the different pumping chambers of the heart.

Following are some of the points that an echocardiogram can detect:

Heart attack Damage: An echocardiogram can detect when the blood supply to the heart is blocked suddenly.

Heart Failure: When the heart fails to pump blood around the body with proper pressure.

Congenital Heart Disease: Sometimes, the normal functioning of the heart is impaired due to congenital disabilities. An echocardiogram can also detect such diseases.

Heart Valve Problems: An echocardiogram can also detect if there are any problems related to the valves which affect the blood flow into the heart.

Cardiomyopathy: It is a condition where the heart’s walls become thickened. This abnormality can also be detected through an echocardiogram.

Endocarditis: An echocardiogram can also detect endocarditis, an infection related to the heart’s lining impairing its valves.

Types of Echocardiograms

1. Transthoracic Echocardiogram

This is one of the most common echocardiograms. Here a transducer is placed on the chest of the patient. The transducer then sends various ultrasound waves through the chest towards the heart. A computer then interprets these waves of sounds as they jump back to the transducer and produce live images. For this procedure, a patient needs to lie down on their back, and the clinician then applies gel to the chest and moves the transducer to collect images.

2. Transoesophageal Echocardiogram

In such an echocardiogram, the clinician inserts a transducer through the patient’s throat, which numbs the throat and makes the procedure much easier. The transducer tube is then guided through the oesophagus. As the transducer is behind the heart of the patient now, the doctor or the clinician can get a much better view of it and understand the different chambers of the heart,

3. Stress Echocardiogram

Here, the clinician uses a transthoracic echocardiogram and takes images before and after the patient has exercised or taken any medication. This helps the doctor understand how a patient’s heart performs under stress.

4. Three-Dimensional Echocardiography

A three-dimensional echocardiogram or 3-D ECG uses a transthoracic or transesophageal echocardiogram to create proper 3-D images of the heart. This produces images from various angles. Also, 3-D echocardiography is often used to understand and diagnose heart ailments in children.

5. Fetal Echocardiography

Foetal echocardiography is generally used on pregnant women, especially during the period of 8 to 22 weeks. In this case, the transducer is correctly placed on the abdomen of the pregnant person to check for any heart problems related to the foetus. In this type of echocardiogram, radiation is not used, unlike that of an X-ray.

Interpreting Results of Echocardiogram

Once the echocardiogram is completed, the sonographer sends these echocardiographic images to the respective doctor who ordered such tests. The doctor then reviews the images and looks for signs of heart problems like decreased pumping strength, any evidence of blood clots or tumours, thick or thin ventricle walls, abnormal chamber size, and heart tissue. 

Difference between Echocardiogram and Electrocardiogram

Most people confuse between echocardiogram (ECG) and Electrocardiogram (EKG). Ekg generally measures the electrical impulses as well as waves that mainly travel through the cardiac muscle tissue. In an Ekg, the electrical activity in the heart causes the heart muscles to contract and relax, thereby creating a type of rhythmic heartbeat. This is quite different from an echocardiogram, as the latter uses ultrasound radiation. 


Clinicians, as well as doctors, generally use an echocardiogram in order to understand the different problems that might affect a person’s heart. Doctors can also look for any potential heart disease and prescribe treatment accordingly through an echocardiogram. Hopefully, through this, you have been able to understand echocardiograms and their uses in different cases.