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What does the heart monitor (EKG) do in the ICU?

Deb Cordes
Deb Cordes on behalf of Sigma Nursing
Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation Specialist

Patients in the ICU are often placed on a heart monitor. The purpose of the heart monitor is to monitor the heart rate (how fast or slow it is beating) and the rhythm (how regular or irregular the heart beat is). It is important for the nurse and doctor to be able to monitor the heart rate and rhythm of a patient who is very ill. Heart rate and rhythm can help the nurse and doctor treat any problems that the patient might be having. The monitor can be set to alarm and alert the nurse if the heart rate goes to fast, to slow or shows any irregular rhythm.

Dr. Cathy Provins-Churbock, PhD
Critical Care Medicine Specialist

The heart monitor allows the nurses and physicians to monitor on an ongoing basis the rhythm and rate of the heart beat. Each heart beat is captured and transfered to a monitor for assessment. These beats look like wavy lines to lay people but carry great meaning to the healthcare team. These are indicators of patient condition. 

Family members are often concerned about the noise the machines make. Know that nursing staff monitor these all day and all night and each tone means something different. If your loved one needs immediate attention staff will enter the room.

The EKG being used in the ICU can tell us if the patient is having a fast or slow rhythm, or an abnormal rhythm.

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