Word of the Day - Wednesday, August 2nd

Contact Us



Word of the Day


Clever Clue of the Month

The Cruciverbalist


Daily Email

EKG (Electrocardiogram)

A graphic which records the electrical voltage in the heart

Common clue: Heart reading: Abbr.; Cardiologist's instrument (Abbr.)

Crossword puzzle frequency: 2 times a year

News: Students' design helps man's best friend

An electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG, abbreviated from the German Elektrokardiogramm) is a graphic produced by an electrocardiograph, which records the electrical voltage in the heart in the form of a continuous strip graph. It is the prime tool in cardiac electrophysiology, and has a prime function in screening and diagnosis of cardiovascular diseases.

The ECG has a wide array of uses:

  • Determine whether the heart is performing normally or suffering from abnormalities (eg. extra or skipped heartbeats - cardiac arrhythmia).

  • May indicate acute or previous damage to heart muscle (heart attack) or ischaemia of heart muscle (angina).

  • Can be used for detecting potassium, calcium, magnesium and other electrolyte disturbances.

  • Allows the detection of conduction abnormalities (heart blocks and bundle branch blocks).

  • As a screening tool for ischaemic heart disease during an exercise tolerance test.

  • Can provide information on the physical condition of the heart (eg: left ventricular hypertrophy, mitral stenosis).

  • Can suggest non-cardiac disease (e.g. pulmonary embolism, hypothermia)


In the 19th century it became clear that the heart generated electricity. The first to systematically approach the heart from an electrical point-of-view was Augustus Waller, working in St Mary's Hospital in Paddington, London. In 1911 he still saw little clinical application for his work. The breakthrough came when Willem Einthoven, working in Leiden, The Netherlands, invented the string galvanometer, which was much more precise than the capillary galvanometer that Waller used. Einthoven assigned the letters P, Q, R, S and T to the various deflections, and described the electrocardiographic features of a number of cardiovascular disorders. He was awarded the 1924 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine for his discovery.



This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Electrocardiogram".