A "what do you call those things?" question (medical)

Okay, you know when doctors are taking certain kinds of readings from you, and they stick those little pads with wires running from them onto your head or chest or arms or whatever?

What are those called, and what exactly can they actually pick up? I can’t even begin to think of how to phrase a useful Google query.

The ones going across your chest are for an ECG (electrocardiogram) which is to check the rhythm of the heart as well as to look for other things like a heart attack or cardiac enlargement (hypertrophy). Sometimes this is still abbreviated as EKG which reflects the original German spelling Elektrokardiogramm.

And, the ones on your head are for an EEG (electroencephalogram) which checks the electrical activity of the brain (“brain waves”) for evidence of for seizures and some other things such as helping to determine why someone is delirious, or to check if they are really, truly, most sincerely dead.

I missed the edit window and forgot to say that in both cases, ECG and EEG, the electrodes are recording the surface electrical activity as a reflection of the underlying electrical activity in the heart and brain respectively.

And the next thing a doctor says is that “they measure the CURRENT”… no they measure voltage. Zero current through those electrodes.

And whether it’s spelled ECG or EKG, it’s generally pronounced “ee-kay-gee”, because “ee-see-gee” sounds too much like “ee-ee-gee”, especially if one is hearing it in the context of a loud emergency room. Don’t want to do the wrong test when it’s an urgent matter!

I was so confused by that for the longest time until I figured it out.

Highly unlikely.

ECG is pronounced as its letters, as is EKG. EKG is a much more commonly used abbreviation in the US. However it is not likely an EEG would be confused with an ECG, even as a verbal order. An emergency EEG would be highly unusual; the clinical setting of each is quite distinct, and in any case, most orders are written down–especially EEG.

Note that most “pads with wires” are for monitoring the heart when they are placed on the chest. This might be for an EKG, or longer term monitoring (typically for rhythm) inside or outside a clinical care setting. Pads with wires on the head are usually for brain wave activity monitoring, such as an EEG.

There are other uses for electrodes placed on the body. EMG (electromyography) and NCV (nerve conduction velocity), for example.

when a wire ends and connects with something other (nonmetal) it is usually called an electrode. electrodes as a general thing can be incoming, outgoing or both. the other common wire ending and connects with something other is an antenna.

those sensing electrodes measure really small voltage.

I find it hard to countenance the thought that physicians don’t learn such things, including the proper nomenclature, by the time they’ve finished medical school.

it could be a word choice.

to the patient, if unknowing about the details, the word ‘voltage’ has a shocking connotation.

‘measuring electrical activity’ is better yet.

If I may piggyback on this thread with a medical “what do you call it” question of my own: what are the devices called that have a Jeopardy-style push button thingy that allows patients to administer their own pain meds?

A patient-controlled analgesia (PCA) infusion pump.