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5 Tips to Reading an Electrocardiogram

In the world of cardiology, the 12-lead EKG is one of the most important diagnostic measures. Whether you are a seasoned cardiologist or a rookie nurse, being able to read, analyze and properly interpret an EKG is a vital skill that allows you to provide patients with the best possible care for their heart and cardiovascular health. And no matter what your experience level might be, every medical professional should take the time to constantly brush up and keep their EKG knowledge as fresh as possible. Many will buy EKG textbooks to both, refresh their knowledge during their off time, and to even keep with them as a reference guide during confusing scenarios or readings. At EKG.md, Dr. Anthony Kashou offers students the best EKG study guide around, the Ultimate EKG Breakdown. And when you buy EKG textbooks at EKG.md, you have the option of getting the full-size version or the smaller, pocket spiral version. This full-color, pocket guide, is designed to fit into the pocket of any standard lab coat or doctor’s jacket – while providing you all the EKG knowledge of the full-size version. The standard electrocardiogram, otherwise known as an EKG or ECG, is a diagnostic test that provides you with a representation of the heart’s electrical activity. The device uses electrode patches, stuck to the chest, which allow us to gain valuable knowledge including the heart rate, the heart’s rhythm, how well the chambers conduct electricity and much more. When seeing a patient, it is important to be confident and know exactly how the best means of assessing a patient and their EKG reading is. Here are a few tips to help you better interpret and utilize an EKG with patients.

· Examine Your Patient

In any field of healthcare, the patient should always come first. Not only for their benefit, but for your own. Assessing the patient will give you clues as to what the EKG reading mean. In the field of cardiology, it is important to make note of certain details, including: the patient’s temperature, are they clammy?, their complexion, do they seem short of breath, are they complaining of chest pains, what is their pulse, and anything else you might notice about them. Based on these observations, you will be able to put your EKG readings into a better context – providing you with the perspective on what is good and what is bad.

· Find a Baseline

This goes hand-in-hand with the first tip, as you are establishing a better understanding or normal baselines. The 12 leads are designed to show the electrical current that passes through the heart at different planes – almost like different pictures being painted for you to interpret. The 6 limb leads, look at the heart from a vertical perspective, while the other 6 show the heart from a horizontal perspective. This will help you to understand where any damage or disruptions in the heart might be and what they mean. Also find out if your patient is on any medications, as this may lead to a slower or even faster heart rate – altering your baseline.

· Create a System

To gain confidence and get yourself comfortable with the EKG, follow the same steps and routine every time. When you buy EKG textbooks, they will provide an outline of steps, try this for starters. The first thing to do is to determine whether your rhythm is regular or irregular – do this by tracking your P waves and QRS complexes to see if they are consistent or have gaps. You can decide if the rhythm is too fast or too slow now. Then you should assess your ST segments for any depressions or elevations, this is very important as you might have to take action soon after.

· Find Out the Heart Rate

Examine your EKG, and determine whether your heart rate is normal, and how fast it is beating. By examining the pace of these rhythms you will be able to determine its stability as well. A stable rhythm is good news for the patient and their stability as well. Heart rate is determined by which electrical circuit is “conducting” the heart. Rhythms conducted above the atria are usually above 60 and tend to be abnormal when the rate is fast (atrial flutter, atrial fibrillation, supraventricular tachycardia). Rhythms conducted below the atria are slower and tend to be unstable when the rate is irregular (heart blocks).

· Unstable or Lethal Rhythms

An unstable or poor rhythm can be lethal to a patient and can lead to impending heart failure if it is not addressed soon. The types of negative rhythms to be aware of include: Mobitz Type II, Third Degree Heart Block, Ventricular Tachycardia, and Idioventricular Rhythms. Again, also understand the proper lead you are looking at, as this will tell you which part of the heart you are examining, and which part might be damaged and in need of treatment.

Having an EKG study guide, like the Ultimate EKG Breakdown is really important, as it can not only help you to study and brush up on your EKG knowledge, but to also act as a pocket reference guide during important situations. For more information on EKG knowledge and to know where to buy EKG text book and pocket guide, the Ultimate EKG Breakdown, visit EKG.md today.

DID YOU KNOW?
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Dr. Anthony Kashou (The EKG Guy) is a physician resident at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. He is on a mission to transform ECG education and filling the gap exists around the world. Dr. Kashou has taught and developed curriculum for medical students, including 500+ lectures and 100+ hours of adult and pediatric ECG lessons.

At the Mayo Clinic, he pursues innovative ECG research and was awarded first place for his research at the Minnesota American College of Cardiology Conference 2018. His passion for medical education and innovation led to the development of EKG.MD, which provides a convenient and accessible forum to learn the fundamentals and foundations of ECG interpretation. He has also authored dozens of peer-reviewed articles for medical journals and textbooks, along with multiple ECG books for learners at all levels.

Dr. Kashou continues to lead and teach weekly ECG sessions and weekend seminars for residents, nurses, ECG interpreting technicians, and physician assistants at the Mayo Clinic. He has been asked and is currently developing an ECG board review course for cardiology fellows. He has an online following of over 275,000 individuals and is the founder of the largest, fastest growing ECG community in the world. His clinical research focuses on developing innovative ECG algorithms that can be integrated and implemented into clinical practice.

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