One of the primary diagnostic tools physicians rely upon when they suspect the presence of heart disease is the electrocardiograph (also called electrocardiogram, EKG or ECG ) machine. This machine detects and records the electronic impulses transmitted by the heart during and between heartbeats. (EKG) technicians operate and maintain EKG machines. When patients are suspected of having heart disease or an abnormality, a physician may refer them to an EKG technician for testing. An EKG test may also be included as part of a comprehensive physical examination, especially for older patients. The test is usually performed with the patient lying upon an examination table. Sometimes, however, a physician may order a stress EKG which requires the patient to walk on a treadmill while heart activity is recorded. In either case, the technician attaches from 3 to 12 electrodes (also called leads) to the patient’s chest, arms and legs. Each electrode measures your heart’s electrical activity from a different angle, which the EKG machine displays as 12 separate readings.

The technician then starts the machine which begins recording wave tracings on a roll of paper. Periodically, the technician relocates the electrodes, notes the replacement on the EKG tracing, and begins the new recording. Once the test is completed, the technician may mark sections of the report that the physician should review. In addition to the standard recording of heart rhythm for examination purposes, the EKG Technician can assist in monitoring the heart during other diagnostic and therapeutic procedures.

What is the difference between ECG & EKG machines?

ECG & EKG are the same. They are interchangeable. The term EKG is abbreviated from the German word Elektro-Kardiographie.

The Electrocardiograph (EKG or ECG), which was created in 1877 by Augustus Waller, records and interprets the electrical activity of the heart muscles and measures the rate and regularity of the heartbeat. With each heartbeat, an electrical current pumps through the organ. This pulse makes the heart contract and push blood to the rest of the body. Electrodes are strategically placed on the skin of the chest, legs and arms. The skin has to be clean and in some cases any hair on the skin may need to be clipped or shaven. The standard number of electrodes used for a diagnostic test is 12-15. Although for basic monitoring sometimes as little as 3 are needed. Through the electrodes, the EKG records each of the heart’s electrical pulses. Each pulsation is transmitted to the skin when nerve centers sense the contraction and relaxation of the heart muscle.

An accurate EKG reading is taken through a sequence of three waves named P, QRS, and T. The P wave, a short, low amplitude wave, marks the impulse of the heart’s atria, which receives blood from the veins. The high amplitude QRS wave measures the ventricular activity and the slow forming T wave shows ventricular renewal.

An EKG is painless. The test examines outgoing electrical impulses and therefore does not create an electrical shock. Before taking an EKG test, inform your doctor of any medications you may be taking. It is also recommended that patients do not drink cold water immediately prior to an exam because it may cause changes in the T wave.

The electrocardiograph can be used while the patient is either laying still on a table or during an exercise electrocardiography, which examines the heart while under stress. The patient undergoes a series of physical tests, such as running on a treadmill, to evaluate the heart’s response with the increase demand for oxygen. If there are any abnormalities in any of the waves’ duration, amplitude or direction, doctors will then use other tests and clinical observations to conclude a diagnosis. The EKG is very helpful in determining whether or not chest pain or palpitations is an indication of heart disease.

Leading EKG Machine Manufacturers

Burdick (A Quinton Company) – Leading supplier of ECG/EKG machines to physicians’ offices in the U.S. for over 45 years. Located in Deerfield, Wisconsin, Burdick designs and develops electrocardiographs that set the industry standard, plus a wide range of related cardiopulmonary diagnostics including PC-based tests.

Burdick Inc Home Page

500 Burdick Parkway
Deerfield, WI  53531
Phone: 800.777.1777

Philips Medical Systems – Delivers one of the world’s most robust portfolios of medical systems for faster and more accurate diagnosis and treatment. Philips’ product line includes best-in-class technologies in X-ray, ultrasound, magnetic resonance, computed tomography, nuclear medicine, PET, radiation oncology systems, patient monitoring, and information management and resuscitation products.

Philips Medical Systems Home Page

3000 Minuteman Road
Andover, MA 01810-1099
Phone: 866.246.7306

Cardioline, Inc – Serving the medical industry for over 50 years. They specialize in ECG monitoring and diagnostic equipment – Electrocardiographs, Stress Testing Systems, Holter Monitoring Systems, Defibrillators and related supplies and accessories.

Cardioline Inc. Home Page
720 Southpoint Blvd
Petaluma, Ca 94954

Useful Resources

The American Heart Association