A Guide to Understanding ECG Artifacts

ECG Artifacts
  • Updated on: June 3, 2024

If you are new to the term “ECG Artifacts”, this blog will give you all the information to help you get the clarity you need. ECG (electrocardiogram) artifacts are unwanted signals or obstructions that alter the heart’s own electrical activity. There are several causes of ECG artifacts. Sometimes when a patient moves or the electrode placement gets shifted, ECG artifacts can happen. But the most challenging aspect of it all is distinguishing this from the genuine cardiac signals. 

To correctly diagnose and treat cardiac conditions, it is imperative for healthcare professionals to have an in-depth understanding of ECG artifacts. This blog will serve as a guide for anyone looking to gain comprehensive insights on electrocardiogram artifacts.

What are the main artifacts in ECG?

ECG artifacts can stem from diverse sources. It often alters genuine cardiac signals. The main artifacts include:

  • Muscle Noise: Generated by patient movement or muscle contractions.
  • Wandering Baseline Drift: Gradual shift in baseline due to electrode contact issues or skin impedance changes.
  • Electromagnetic Interference: External sources such as electrical devices or power lines.
  • Electrode Motion: Displacement of electrodes leading to erratic signals.
  • 60 Hz Interference: Commonly from electrical mains, appearing as regular spikes.
  • Lead Reversal: Incorrect placement of leads resulting in inverted or abnormal waveforms.
  • Sweat Artifact: Increased skin conductivity causing signal distortion.
  • Equipment Malfunction: Issues with the ECG machine or cables impacting signal quality.

What are the ways by which ECG artifacts can be avoided?

It is extremely important to minimize or if possible completely stop ECG artifacts to ensure accurate interpretation of electrocardiograms. Here are effective strategies for artifact avoidance:

  • Proper Electrode Placement: Ensure correct positioning according to standard lead placements.
  • Patient Preparation: Clean skin thoroughly to reduce impedance and secure electrodes tightly.
  • Minimize Patient Movement: Instruct patients to remain still during recording to mitigate muscle noise.
  • Electrical Grounding: Shield equipment from electromagnetic interference and maintain proper grounding.
  • Electrode Check: Regularly inspect electrodes for damage or deterioration.
  • Noise Filtering: Utilize ECG machines with built-in filters to reduce interference.
  • Signal Amplification: Adjust signal amplification settings to optimize signal-to-noise ratio.
  • Quality Control Checks: Perform routine maintenance on ECG equipment and calibrate as needed.
  • Staff Training: Ensure healthcare professionals are trained in proper ECG acquisition techniques and artifact recognition.

Read More: Supraventricular Tachycardia: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment Options

What is the most efficient way to conduct an ECG?

Conducting an efficient electrocardiogram (ECG) requires a systematic approach to ensure accurate data acquisition while minimizing patient discomfort and time consumption. Here’s the most efficient method to perform an electrocardiogram without any artifacts:

  • Patient Preparation:
    • Brief the patient on the procedure to alleviate anxiety.
    • Ensure the patient is comfortably positioned, lying flat with minimal movement.
  • Electrode Placement:
    • Verify the correct placement of electrodes according to standard lead positions.
    • Clean the skin thoroughly to reduce impedance and ensure good electrode contact.
  • Equipment Setup:
    • Power on the ECG machine and ensure proper calibration.
    • Attach electrodes securely to designated anatomical landmarks.
  • Acquisition Process:
    • Initiate the recording process and confirm signal quality.
    • Monitor the ECG waveform in real-time to identify any artifacts or irregularities.
  • Data Interpretation:
    • Review the recorded ECG for accuracy and completeness.
    • Evaluate waveform morphology and intervals to assess cardiac function.
  • Documentation:
    • Document relevant patient information, including demographics and clinical context.
    • Save the ECG recording in the patient’s medical record for future reference.
  • Patient Comfort and Care:
    • Provide post-procedure care and ensure the patient’s comfort.
    • Address any questions or concerns the patient may have regarding the ECG results.

Efficient ECG conductance not only ensures accurate data collection but also contributes to a positive patient experience and streamlined clinical workflow.

Read More: How to identify and treat pulseless electrical activity (PEA)


Mastering the understanding of ECG artifacts is crucial for healthcare professionals. It is the most important prerequisite of interpreting a cardiogram effectively. Eventually proper interpretation leads to prompt and precise diagnosis, leading to better recovery chances. When clinicians learn to distinctly point out artifacts, they administer high quality care, paving the way to optimum patient outcome. When armed with this knowledge, healthcare professionals can ensure reliable diagnosis. With diligence and proper knowledge it is absolutely possible to navigate through the complexities of ECG interpretation with precision.