How to Read a Heart EKG

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Reading an EKG (electrocardiogram) can be a difficult process if you are not properly trained or are unfamiliar with the test. Locating the three waves on the chart and interpreting their meaning is a skill that will take practice. Below is a basic method to properly read a heart EKG.

Things You'll Need

  • EKG chart
  • Calipers

Locate the P wave. See Reference 2 below and observe the shape, size, and location of the P wave. The P wave should be regularly occurring and should remain regularly spaced. Measure the space between the P waves with calipers to ensure that the distance is regular.

Calculate the atoll rate. According to Reference 1 below, you should "...count the number of P waves in two 3-second segments and multiply by 10."

Determine the PR interval by counting the squares between the beginning of the P wave and the beginning of the QRS complex. Take that figure and multiply by .04 seconds. A normal PR Interval is between .12 and .20 seconds.

Check the ventricular rhythm. Using calipers, measure the distance between the Rs of the QRS complex. If these distances are equal, the ventricular rhythm is regular.

Determine the ventricular rate. Count the small squares between two R waves. Take 1500 and divide by the figure you just acquired. This gives you the ventricular rate.

Determine the duration of the QRS complex. Count the squares from the beginning of the Q to the end of the S wave. Multiply this figure by .04 seconds. Normal QRS interval is less than .72 seconds.

Check the QT interval. Count the small squares from the beginning of the Q in the QRS complex to the end of the T wave. Multiply this figure by .04 seconds. Normal QT interval is between .36 and .44 seconds.

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