In 1927 the General Electric Company (GE) developed an ECG machine using amplifier vacuum tubes with a lamp and mirror that traced electrical impulses onto film. From these basic principles ECG machines have developed into compact machines with LCD screens and built in printers.
12 lead Electrocardiogram (ECG) machines are common place in almost every GP practice. Clinicians know that ECG readings from patients are often used alongside other tests to help diagnose and monitor conditions affecting the heart.
When it comes to choosing an ECG machine for your practice there are a range of manufacturers and models, from a stand alone machine the size of a home printer to a unit that can fit in the palm of your hand which links to your PC via USB or bluetooth. Wearable devices are also available allowing patients to take readings at intervals from home.
We are called upon to inspect, calibrate and repair ECG machines and often the faults we find are less complex than you might think. So what advice can we give you to ensure your ECG devices are being cared for properly in between our annual calibration visits?
1) Regularly clean the cables and leadwires using a lightly moistened cloth with mild soap and water solution. Make sure the ECG leads are separated from each other to prevent tangling and ideally they should be hung or draped from the machine. This will prevent the leads from being damaged and also allows the leads to air dry after cleaning.
2) If your ECG machine has a built in printer make sure the paper is inserted as per the manufacturers instructions. On older machines there is often an optical lens which matches up with a black square on the paper. If inserted incorrectly the paper won't feed properly through the machine.
3) Make sure any printer rollers are clean- you can use an alcohol wipe to remove debris/dust.
4) When attaching the leads to the machine make sure the pins are straight on the plug connector and make sure the connection is made secure and straight into the machine. Bent pins will cause faulty lead connections and incorrect readings.
5) Some ECG machines can be affected by mobile phone signals. It is advised that patients and clinicians turn their mobile phone off during the ECG recording process. Some ECG machines have a filter function which counteracts external and unwanted interference.
If you're unsure of your ECG readings or you are having performance issues we have a network of engineers on call to help, on the phone and onsite. Our engineers carry devices which simulate the QRS complex allowing us to pick up on anomalies or defects.