EKG Case Study: Could this happen to your mother?
Could this happen to your mother?
I took my mother to her cardiologist for some routine tests. Neither one of us had any reason to believe that her heart was unhealthy. After all, she was my mother, and for 88 years, she’d been active and relatively healthy.
After we were shown into a room, the nurse got my mother situated then began placing the electrodes for a 12 Lead EKG. I’ve been perfecting the art of accurate placement and interpretation for 15 years, so as you can imagine, I was interested to see how this particular nurse would do. I didn’t want to make her self-conscious, so I pretended to read a magazine. She, of course, had no idea who I was or that accurate EKG lead placement was my area of expertise.
Once the electrodes were in place, she hit the record button, and the EKG printed out on the machine. At this point, I told her I was a nurse and asked her if I could give it a go. I acted casually so as not to offend her or erode her confidence.
I placed the electrodes where they belonged, and recorded the EKG.
What her EKG showed was an unhealthy heart: atrial fibrillation with no R waves seen in leads V1 and V2. This can be indicative of a previous heart attack in some patients.
What my EKG showed was that her heart was normal for her age and cardiac history. (To see scans of the two EKGs, click here.) If the doctor had used the original EKG as my mother’s baseline cardiac data, the resulting treatment would likely have been unnecessary, expensive, and possibly harmful.
Subtle differences in the placement of the electrodes produced drastically different interpretations. Though I don’t mean to criticize the nurse, who did the best she could with the knowledge she had, the implications are serious: if a cardiac patient is treated using data from an inaccurate EKG, she could leave the doctors’ office or hospital with new problems.
She might come in with a healthy heart and leave with an unhealthy one.
When the cardiologist came in and I showed her the contradictory recordings, she was alarmed. Unlike the nurse, she knew me and my reputation and trusted my recording. Luckily my mother needed no medication or more serious treatment that day, but I’m glad I was there to intervene.
My aim here is not to be an alarmist and spread fear and suspicion, but simply to emphasize the need for better education. We all want the best possible care for ourselves and our loved ones; however, too many healthcare professionals lack the specific training and expertise to provide it. This is the story behind EKGs 4U: come to us for better education, and we’ll help you provide top-notch care and optimal patient outcomes.