A wireless electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG) is a reading of electrical signals in the heart taken with electrodes that transmit signals wirelessly to a base unit like a computer. Electrocardiography is a valuable tool for diagnosis and monitoring of patients; wireless systems provide more functionality and comfort for patients. With traditional equipment, the patient must wear leads attached to the electrodes, and things like movement can interrupt the test and interfere with readings.
In a wireless ECG, a technician places electrodes covered in conductive gel onto the patient's chest. The placement is important, as they need to be positioned optimally for minimal interference. Wireless units on the backs of the electrodes will relay data to a base unit. For ambulatory monitoring, the patient can wear or carry the base unit without having to worry about managing leads. In a hospital setting, the electrodes can communicate directly with a computer or telemetry station.
The wireless ECG can be useful for getting basic data on a patient with a suspected heart problem, to monitor a patient in a hospital setting, or for tracking heart rhythm during surgery. The strength of the signal varies depending on the unit, and many systems come with software to clean up the signal and present a clear, easily read ECG tracing, a visual representation of the electrical rhythms in the hearts. In a hospital setting where patients may be connected to a tangle of leads and equipment, reducing the number of wires around the bed can make patients more comfortable and easier to care for.
There are also potential applications for wireless ECG in a home setting. For ambulatory studies of patients with intermittent heart conditions, the device can be worn for a set period of time to generate data for a cardiologist to inspect. Emergency services personnel can use wireless devices to quickly collect data on patients and transmit it to an admitting hospital, or can carry the information with them to hand over to the doctor who admits the patient at the hospital.
Costs for wireless ECG systems vary, depending on features and manufacturer. Hospitals and practitioners considering such systems may want to get technical specifications for comparison. Some companies have sample models they will allow people to test out to see if the system meets their needs, and may offer discounts for buying multiple units. Wireless ECG technology is also available for veterinary use.