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Electrocardiograms (EKGs) are an invaluable tool when it comes to diagnosing problems with the heart. This may include a number of items but not limited to bradycardia, tachycardia, 1st degree heart blocks and atrial fibrillation. Without the electrocardiogram doctors would have a much more difficult time diagnosing cardiac difficulties.
When learning about an electrocardiogram the first thing you need to learn is how to read it. There are a few things you are looking for but it all starts with waves. There is the p-wave, which is the arterial depolarization of the SA node toward the AV node. This will register as the first wave you will see on an EKG. Next is the QRS complex this is the depolarization of the ventricles, this wave appears much larger due to the fact that the ventricles are much more muscular then the atria. Finally you will see the T-wave, which is the repolarization of the ventricles starting this entire process over again.
Next we look at the distance between the full cycles of the heart, this tells a physician one of three possible things. If the patient’s heart rate is under 60 beats per minute it may be a condition known as bradycardia, which is an abnormally slow heart beat. Next if the patient’s heart rate is above 100 beats per minute it may be classified as a condition known as tachycardia. Finally if the heart rate falls somewhere in between 60 and 100 it is classified as a normal heart rate. Two of the previous three conditions may be indication of a more serious underlying problem.
Another factor your physician will take into account is what each one of these waves look like. If you are missing your p-wave completely this is a symptom of atrial fibrillation. What is happening is the aria of your heart are not actually pumping blood, they instead are quivering. This condition may be serious if it is a new condition possibly indicating a clot in the heart. However, many elderly citizens have this condition and do not know they even have it. They may live a full life because the majority of the work done by the cardiac muscles is by the ventricles, pumping oxygenated blood through out your entire body.
Many patients that enter through the Emergency room are in what is called Ventricular fibrillation, which is the absence of all the waves and the entire heart is just quivering. This poses a significant problem because without your ventricles contracting oxygenated blood will not be pumped through your body, if this is a persisting issue the result will be brain damage or death.
Another common cardiac problem is tachycardia, when your heart rate exceeds the recommended 100 beats per minute it may pose as much of a problem as ventricular fibrillation because your heart is beating at such a rapid pace that blood cannot travel from the atria to the ventricles fast enough to supply your body with the amount of oxygenated blood necessary to survive.
These of course are only a few of the numerous conditions that an electrocardiogram can aid a physician in diagnosing. As you can see, the electrocardiogram is an invaluable tool in diagnostic medicine and may even extend a patient’s life.

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