Electrocardiography is a useful adjunct to other pulmonary tests because it provides information about the right side of the heart (see Cardiovascular Tests and Procedures: Electrocardiography (ECG)) and therefore pulmonary disorders such as chronic pulmonary hypertension and pulmonary embolism.
Chronic pulmonary hypertension leading to chronic right atrial and ventricular hypertrophy and dilation may manifest as prominent P waves (P pulmonale) and ST-segment depression in leads II, III, and aVF; rightward shift in QRS axis; inferior shift of the P wave vector; and decreased progression of R waves in precordial leads.
COPD patients commonly have low voltage due to interposition of hyperexpanded lungs between the heart and ECG electrodes.
Pulmonary embolism (submassive or massive) may cause acute right ventricle overload or failure, which manifests as right axis deviation (R > S in V1), with S-wave deepening in lead I, Q-wave deepening in lead III, and ST-segment elevation and T-wave inversion in lead III and the precordial leads (S1Q3T3 pattern). Right bundle branch block also sometimes occurs.
Last full review/revision June 2009 by Noah Lechtzin, MD, MHS
Content last modified February 2012