Electrocardiograms (ECGs/EKGs)

What is the difference between and ECG and EKG?

There is no difference between an ECG and an EKG. Both refer to the same procedure, however one is in English (electrocardiogram – ECG) and the other is based on the German spelling (elektrokardiogramm – EKG). It is common to use the German “EKG” in the United States because “ECG” sounds very similar to a different procedure called an EEG.

An ECG/EKG is a procedure for recording electrical activity in the heart over a period of time using electrodes that are strategically placed on the body. The most common EKG is called the 12-lead EKG.

What does an EKG tell us?

In contrast to a cardiac ultrasound (echocardiogram) which is used to evaluate the mechanical function of the heart, an electrocardiogram is used to evaluate the electrical activity in the heart. Electrical impulses in the heart are what tell the heart muscles to contract. The contractions are what we refer to as the heartbeat. An EKG produces a visual display of electrical activity as graphed wave forms and these tracings provide information about heart rate and heart rate variability. An EKG can detect irregularities in heart rhythm, also known as arrhythmia.

For great apes, an EKG is often performed during an anesthetized health assessment. The GAHP cardiac exam submission form requests copies of EKGs that are obtained during anesthetized exams. Besides the traditional 12-lead EKG, it is also possible to obtain information about the heart’s electrical activity using implantable recording devices. For more information, please visit our Implantable Loop Recorder page.

 You can find more detailed information about EKGs here: