The ECG Basics Course: Introduction


The 12 lead ECG is an important tool in the emergency department. It provides an electrical picture of the heart and gives information about a variety of different medical conditions. An ECG is often the first piece of diagnostic testing available in the evaluation of a patient. A good understanding of the ECG can allow early detection of important pathological and physiological problems allowing early intervention.

The skilled ECG reader uses the ECG in a variety of situations to gain insight into the physiology and pathology of the patient. Some examples of pathology an ECG might suggest are:

  • Myocardial Infarction
  • Myocardial Ischemia
  • Arrythmias
  • Electrolyte Disturbances
  • Pulmonary Embolism
  • Hypothermia
  • Toxidromes
  • Structural heart disease
  • Genetic Disorders

The first step in the process of becoming a skilled ECG reader is to gain an understanding of the basics of the ECG and an approach to reading ECG’s that will allow detection of even subtle abnormalities. The second step is to practice ECG interpretation by reading as many ECGs as you can get your hands on.

Many ECG textbooks begin with long discussions of cardiac physiology. Although an understanding of physiology is important it can be intimidating and cause students to avoid trying their hand at ECG interpretation. The goal of this course is to provide the student with a basic understanding of the ECG and an approach to interpretation. We use a systematic approach that will give the novice confidence to start trying their hand at ECGs. As with any learned skill, with practice the student will be able rapidly recognize familiar patterns on the ECG, but when those familiar patterns aren’t there there will be a stepwise approach to fall back to.

The ECG Basics Course: