The PR interval is measured using an electrocardiogram, also called ECG or EKG. This is a painless test performed on cardiac patients in order to measure the electrical conductivity of the heart and identify any abnormalities.
Understanding What EKGs are Used For
1. Familiarize yourself with how the heart works. To understand how the test is done it is important to understand how the heart works.
2. Understand what an EKG is used for. An EKG is usually done to show any abnormalities that may be present in the heart, for example arrhythmias and abnormal heart beats. This is important, so the EKG is the first test that is done on cardiac patients to help in the diagnosis of abnormalities of the heart.
3. Know what the EKG can identify. The EKG helps to show the speed at which the heart is beating and identify whether it is beating slower or faster than it should.
Performing the Test
1. Ask the patient to lie down. Once the patient is lying down, small patches called electrodes will be attached to the chest, arms and legs.
2. Make sure the electrodes are positioned correctly. The ten electrodes of the EKG machine should be clearly labeled, as this helps the caregiver to know where they should be placed on the patient’s body.
3. Request that the patient lies very still and holds their breath. The patient is advised not to move while the procedure is being done, because any movement will alter the results of the test and prevent a clear diagnosis.
Assessing the Results
1. Wait for the depolarization of the sinus node. The normal cardiac cycle starts with depolarization of the sinus node. This occurs in a specialized tissue that is located in the right atrium (RA).
2. Look for the P wave followed by the PR interval. The first chamber of the heart to undergo an electrical activity is the right atrium and then it spreads to the left atrium. The first electrical activity initiates in the atrium and it is called the P wave.
3. Identify the QRS complex. Depolarization of the lower chambers of the heart then follows. This is the largest part of the signals visible on the EKG and it is called the QRS complex.
4. Learn how the EKG results are recorded. The recording of an EKG is done on a standard paper and this allows the electrical activity to be measured, usually in terms of milliseconds.
5. Use the results of the EKG to determine the heart rate. The number of large squares between each of the QRS complex helps to determine the heart rate.
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