The patient disrobes from the waist up, and electrodes (tiny wires in adhesive pads) are applied to specific sites on the arms, legs, and chest. When attached, these electrodes are called leads; three to 12 leads may be employed for the procedure.
Muscle movement may interfere with the recording, which lasts for several beats of the heart. In cases where rhythm disturbances are suspected to be infrequent, the patient may wear a small Holter monitor in order to record continuously over a 24-hour period. This is known as ambulatory monitoring.
Special training is required for interpretation of the electrocardiogram. To summarize in the simplest manner the features used in interpretations, the P wave of the electrocardiogram is associated with the contraction of the atria—the two chambers of the heart that receive blood from the veins. The QRS series of waves, or QRS complex, is associated with ventricular contraction, with the T wave coming after the contraction. The ventricles are the two chambers of the heart that receive blood from the atria and that send the blood into the arteries. Finally, the P-Q or P-R interval gives a value for the time taken for the electrical impulse to travel from the atria to the ventricle (normally less than 0.2 seconds).
Maggie Boleyn R.N., B.S.N., Paula Ford-Martin, The Gale Group Inc., Gale, Detroit,