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09/04/2019

What hospital device am I thinking of?

QUESTION
What hospital device am I thinking of?
Hi guys, I’m a hospital volunteer on the cardiovascular stepdown unit of my local hospital. I’m trying to write an essay about my duties within the hospital for my college applications, but I’ve hit a snag.

One of my tasks is to clean these special wires, but I now realize I have no idea what they’re called or even used for. Since this essay is for college, I want to be able to use the technical term.

These wires are gray, with colored plastic “hook” things at the end. There are five wires in each unit, and each has different colored plastic – there is white, red, green, brown, and black. The wires are sometimes different lengths. They plug into a battery-powered cartridge. I know that the front of the cartridge has a skeleton’s torso on it, with a few little lights marking certain places on the chest. Some lights are on before the batteries are removed. The wires have some sort of clear gel on them that has to be cleaned off, and sometimes they are soaked before cleaning to make the removal easier.

Does anybody have any idea what these are called, and what their use is?

ANSWER
Those are ECG leads. There are two positive leads, two negative leads, and a ground lead. The polarity of the leads determines the direction the ECG tracing points as the electrical activity of the heart moves through it. The direction the tracing points and its amplitude tells you if the conduction through the heart is normal or travelling in an aberrant pathway. It also tells you about rate, rhythm, and a bit about whether or not the heart muscle has been damaged (ischemia; heart attack).

A 5-lead is typically attached to a monitor; either a transport monitor, a fixed monitor, or a telemetry monitor. A tele monitor is a little battery-powered pack the patient wears and the box transmits the monitor information to central location (usually a nurse’s station or monitoring tech station). A 5-lead is for monitoring only; it is not a diagnostic ECG (though it can give you a good idea if one is necessary) A diagnostic ECG uses 10 leads and from that obtains 12 different “looks” at the heart from differing electrical angles whereas a 5-lead is usually only set up to give you two looks.