In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2023 Jan.


The electrocardiogram (abbreviated as ECG or EKG) represents an electrical tracing of the heart and is recorded non-invasively from the surface of the body. The word ECG derives from the German language. In German, it is elektro-kardiographie. In 1902, the Dutch physician Einthovan invented ECG, and his tremendous input in clinical studies for about ten years led to full recognition of the clinical potential of the technique.

Many arrhythmias and ECG changes associated with angina and atherosclerosis were identified by 1910. William Einthoven was named the "father of electrocardiography" and was awarded Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1924 for his hard work that laid the foundation of the most fundamental technique for investigating heart disorders. ECG was soon recognized as a robust screening and clinical diagnostic tool, and today it is used globally in almost every healthcare setting.

ECG is a non-invasive diagnostic modality that has a substantial clinical impact on investigating the severity of cardiovascular diseases. ECG is increasingly being used for monitoring patients on antiarrhythmics and other drugs, as an integral part of preoperative assessment of patients undergoing non-cardiac surgery, and for screening individuals in high-risk occupations and those participating in sports. Also, ECG serves as a research tool for surveillance and experimental trials of drugs with recognized cardiac effects.

Cardiovascular disease, as the number one cause of death, puts a great emphasis on healthcare providers developing skills and knowledge in interpreting ECGs to provide the best care promptly. Many healthcare providers find the advanced interpretation of ECG findings a complicated task. Errors in the analysis can lead to misdiagnosis, delaying the appropriate treatment. This activity seeks to provide a general understanding of the ECG mechanisms, interpretation techniques, and commonly encountered ECG findings.

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