How to use an ECG machine

Written by david h. malec jr.
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How to use an ECG machine
ECG machine (ecg image by JASON WINTER from Fotolia.com)

An ECG (also known as EKG or electrocardiography ) machine is used to identify what kind of electrical activity (rhythm) the heart is producing. With this information a doctor can make the right decision on how to treat the patient's cardiac issues. Although ECG machines vary in look, set up (3 lead up to 12 lead styles) and operation, all perform the same way by capturing a picture of the electrical current your body naturally produces through heart function. ECG's come with a manufacturer's manual to aid in using specific machines, but the basic steps of usage are universal.

Skill level:
Easy

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Things you need

  • ECG
  • Monitor
  • ECG electrodes
  • ECG leads

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Instructions

  1. 1

    Ensure ECG is plugged in for a steady power supply (most machines have a battery operated backup, but it is not good practice to rely on the battery first in case it dies during operation).

  2. 2

    Check the connection between the ECG machine and the monitor. Set the ECG machine to test mode (this checks for function of both the ECG and the monitor).

  3. 3

    Enter the patient's demographic information when prompted by the ECG machine, for quality assurance. This information prints out on the telemetry strip and is used in discerning one patient's readings from another. The amount of leads you are using will now be identified. There are three types: 3-lead, 5-lead and 12-lead.

  4. 4

    Set the machine to read the right amount of leads (either 12-lead, 5-lead or 3-lead). The machine has a turn dial that designates the type of lead input being used. Each lead type relays different information to the monitor, which is then printed out on the strip.

  5. 5

    Apply the leads as directed by your machine's literature. The 12-lead ECG is the preferred type of monitoring, giving the best electrical activity picture. The name "12-lead ECG" can be misleading (there are only 10 cords) and is the most difficult to set up. With this set up you will use the patient's arms, a leg and chest, applying one lead to each arm, one lead to a single leg and one lead to the right clavicular line. All other leads go into a triangular pattern on the left chest area. The 3-lead type is used primarily in field transport by emergency medical responders to get a quick readout for the transfer to the hospital emergency room. The 3-lead is easier and only takes a few seconds, by applying one lead to the right clavicular line, another to the left clavicular line; the third is the ground, to be placed anywhere in between the other two. The 5-lead type, which is rarely used, is a little more time consuming than the 3-lead, and just as effective.

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