Increasingly healthcare staff are expected to manage the care of patients who may be at risk of developing life-threatening arrhythmias. To recognise and respond to life-threatening arrhythmias demands skill and knowledge as well as understanding of the effects that non-cardiac disorders have on the electrocardiograph (ECG) (Meek & Morris 2002a).

Interpreting normal and abnormal cardiac rhythms requires detailed appreciation of the conducting system. In becoming familiar with the underlying concepts of electro-cardiography and cardiac monitoring techniques, healthcare professionals can start to accurately differentiate rhythm disturbances that may suggest compromised cardiovascular function, myocardial irritability or instability which may precipitate a cardiac arrest.

This chapter introduces the concepts associated with cardiac monitoring and discusses each of the main shockable, non-shockable and peri-arrest rhythms.

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