How to Read a Heart EKG


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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