How to Keep ECG Electrodes On

Written by christina schnell
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How to Keep ECG Electrodes On
ECG electrodes contain a 4 per cent concentration of salt to counteract mild sweating or moisture. (IT Stock/Polka Dot/Getty Images)

ECG electrodes act as conductors of electrical current and transmit every heartbeat and rhythmic irregularity to a computer for further medical analysis. The adhesive underside of an electrode is applied to the patient's bare chest and connects to an electrocardiogram machine through electrical wiring. Automated defibrillator equipment also uses electrodes to conduct electricity between the patient's heart and the defibrillator paddles. Several steps help ensure that the electrodes remain sufficiently adhered to the skin for an accurate and effective procedure.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

Things you need

  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Cotton balls
  • Lint-free paper towels

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  1. 1

    Remove any lotions, oils or creams on the skin before applying the electrode. Even if the patient applied lotion earlier that day or the night before, the same chemicals that protect skin from dryness will also hinder complete electrode adhesion.

  2. 2

    Scrub the skin well using alcohol and cotton pads before attempting electrode application. If the patient has a rash or flaking skin, check with the doctor; you may need to find a new site on the body or use a method to remove the irritated skin. Even mild surface dirt and excess dead skin can limit the adhesive properties of the electrode and cause slipping or movement.

  3. 3

    Dry the skin completely before applying the electrode. Pat the area with a lint-free paper towel. For short-term procedures the 4 per cent salt content of ECG electrodes should absorb any perspiration. However, if the patient is sweating excessively you may need to remove the electrode and clean and dry the skin before applying a new pad.

  4. 4

    Apply electrode gel to the pad to enhance adhesion before attaching it to the patient. The gel also acts as a cushion between the skin and the electrode, making removal or repositioning of pads during the procedure easier for the technician and less painful for the patient.

Tips and warnings

  • Consider the nature of the procedure before choosing an ECG electrode. Certain electrodes are designed specifically for long-term application while others are intended for immediate and intense adhesion, such as the ECG electrodes used for a defibrillator.
  • Always consult the attending physician before attempting to remove, reposition or change any electrodes on a patient.

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