ECG Lead Wires: The Connection Between a Screen and a Heart

The invention of the ECG has revolutionized the field of medicine in cardiology. It is still the most effective and widely used method of monitoring heart activity. The machine consists of a screen which displays heart activity in wave-form, connected to leads on the patient’s chest with leadwires.

Types of Lead Wires and Their Differences

These ECG leadwires are available in two forms: Disposable and Reusable. Disposable ECG lead wires, as the name suggests, can be disposed of after using once. Reusable ECG leadwires can be cleaned, disinfected and used over and over again. These wires do not have any significant cost differences or differences in convenience. The most notable difference is in that of the risk of infection posed by both types of wires, though this has also been proven to be myth by some studies. These beliefs suggest that disposable leadwires pose a much lesser risk of infection than reusable leadwires. Diseases caused by these infections include: bloodstream infections, ventilator induced pneumonia and surgical infections. These differences exist because of a widespread belief that reusable wires cannot be effectively cleaned and disinfected, whereas disposable ones are always new.

Testing Connectivity of ECG Leadwires

  • Connect all leads together for electrical contact, using crocodile clips
  • Place the clips together as a bundle
  • Connect the cable to the display and observe the ECG trace

If the trace is a flat line with no fluctuations, then the cables are fully functional. Otherwise, the cables should be sent for repairs or should be replaced by new ones. If replaced, they should also be aptly tested.

Determining if a lead wire is broken is also of prime importance. Each wire should be left in isolation from the others and their leads touched one by one. Whichever wire is not producing noise from the detector upon contact, it can be concluded to be faulty or broken. These faults must be regularly checked by skilled technicians to avoid mishaps.

How to select reliable Suppliers of ECG Leadwires

Provision of unhygienic and dysfunctional/technically unsound medical equipment is often a business on its own in countries with weaker security checks. Facilities may be tempted to purchase wires which can help them obtain a high profit margin at the cost of the suffrage of customers. In order to ensure that the supplier of such medical equipment is reliable, organizations need to follow a strict set of selection rules. Some of these may include:

  • Comparison between lead wires of two or more suppliers, using dependable testing methods.
  • Perform background checks on the dealers
  • Consult a mutual reference for tips on how to deal with the sellers and about the quality of the product.

Safety Precautions

Some precautions to consider while handling these cables are:

  • Their life expectancy; reusable cables must be disposed of after roughly two years of operation.
  • Ensure proper cleaning by relevant cleaning staff, taking appropriate measures.
  • Disposable cables must not be reused, even after thorough cleaning.
  • During operative life, the cables must not leave the electrocardiography room.


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