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Anesthesiology. 2008 Jan;108(1):138-48.

Equipment-related electrocardiographic artifacts: causes, characteristics, consequences, and correction.

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Department of Anesthesia, Royal Lancaster Infirmary, Lancaster, United Kingdom.


Interference of the monitored or recorded electrocardiogram is common within operating room and intensive care unit environments. Artifactual signals, which corrupt the normal cardiac signal, may arise from internal or external sources. Electrical devices used in the clinical setting can induce artifacts by various different mechanisms. Newer diagnostic and therapeutic modalities may generate artifactual changes. These artifacts may be nonspecific or may resemble serious arrhythmia. Clinical signs, along with monitored waveforms from other simultaneously monitored parameters, may provide the clues to differentiate artifacts from true changes on the electrocardiogram. Simple measures, such as proper attention to basic principles of electrocardiographic measurement, can eliminate some artifacts. However, in persistent cases, expert help may be required to identify the precise source and minimize interference on the electrocardiogram. Technological advancements in processing the electrocardiographic signal may be useful to detect and eliminate artifacts. Ultimately, an improved understanding of the artifacts generated by equipment, and their identifying characteristics, is important to avoid misinterpretation, misdiagnosis, and iatrogenic complication.

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