This picture means different things to different people.
To those who haven't been trained in EKG, well, it's how I used to see it as recently as a week ago: a squiggly line on a paper. I knew it resembled a heartbeat. That was it.
Now, though, it is a different story.
I can tell if an EKG suggests that a patient has had lack of blood flow to the heart, heart damage, poor conduction of the heartbeat signal, enlarged heart size in response to disease, electrical axis deviation, and the basics like pathologic rate or odd rhythm.
Here's a nerdy admission: Learning how to read EKGs has been a dream of mine since I first saw a doc read one in the ER. A nurse went up to him and asked, "Is this normal?" I couldn't tell, but in half a glance the doc said "No." I was blown away. How could someone know so quickly? Now, though, having received preliminary training in EKGs, I could probably tell too.
Reading EKGs, I've found, is a lot like doing well at organic chemistry. Learn the language and the principles, and apply them to real-life situations, and you can figure anything out. Especially important because we were warned by the resident teaching us, "All of these examples are computer-generated textbook examples. None of the EKGs on the ward will look similar to these, so knowing the principles is important for interpretation."
Check off one more thing from the list of things I looked forward to learning in med school.
Sunday, March 18, 2007
Posted at 11:27