Nurses use patient history, physical examination, and laboratory and diagnostic tests to continuously assess and manage patients with cardiovascular disease. One diagnostic test, the electrocardiogram (ECG), assists nurses by providing information about the heart’s conduction system as well as the condition of the myocardial muscle mass. This column describes the ECG patterns associated with left and right ventricular hypertrophy and left and right atrial abnormalities. Early recognition of hypertrophy is important because hypertrophy can be reversed with therapy, thus preventing or delaying adverse outcomes for the patient.1,2 

Two terms, enlargement and hypertrophy, have been commonly used to describe overgrowth of the myocardium, often due to chronic pressure overload. The term hypertrophy is used more often in research reports, whereas the term enlargement is commonly used in textbooks. Enlargement often implies an increase in the dimension of the cardiac chamber,...

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