How to Read ACLS Rhythm Strips

Within medicine, knowledge is power. The more you are aware of what is going
on with a patient, the quicker you will be to react to any potential change or
problem that may soon develop. Thankfully, our ability to help others has been
greatly improved by the technology we use to monitor patients. Effectively using
this information however requires understanding what it shows us.

ACLS, or advanced cardiovascular life support refers to a series of interventions
that are targeted to address several life-threatening conditions as well as medical
emergencies. In addition to being a means to determine the best way to save a
person’s life, it is also a form of certification that can be obtained, as well as a
central part of any nursing or doctor’s education. As a result, being able to
effectively read ACLS rhythm strips is not only necessary to continue with your
education, but to also save the lives of future patients. Lets take a moment to
review how to read ACLS rhythm strips.


Reading ACLS

The Basics

ACLS Rhythm Strips on EKG paper presents a way to measure heart rate that,
with the right understanding, can provide a great deal of information. Split into
5X5 grids, the horizontal boxes each refer to 0.04 seconds with a full 5 boxes
being 0.20 seconds. Using this information you can calculate the basic heart rate
as well as the heart rhythm regularity.

Identifying Different Patterns And Conditions

Beyond understanding the basics, the most important thing to understand are the
various patterns that can result from a myriad of potentially life threatening
conditions. For example, there are a range of pulseless rhythms including
pulseless ventricular tachycardia, ventricular fibrillation, pulseless electrical
activity, and asystole. In addition to pulseless conditions, there are also
bradyarrhythmias including 1st degree block, 2nd Degree AV block type 1, 2nd
Degree AV block type 2, and complete heart block, as well as tachyarrhythmias
including supraventricular tachycardia (SVT), atrial flutter, atrial fibrillation, and
even more. The only way that you can read an ACLS rhythm strip is to know
what these conditions are and what they look like. The more familiar you are
with this information, the quicker your response will be and the more lifesaving
services you will be able to provide before it is too late.

Expanding Through Experience

Simply put, the more experience you have practicing the better you will be at
successfully reading ACLS rhythm strips. One thing you should consider is
searching for online aids that create a variety of conditions for you to test your
knowledge in. Along with being fantastic study aids, these websites will also help
you to improve your response time, giving you the edge you need in a high-
stress and rewarding career. Until then, the best thing you can do is to
understand the basics and build your understanding through experience.

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