ChewbaccaPatients with a hairy chest may require little patches of hair to be shaved when applying EKG leads. This allows the leads to stick firmly to the chest. Loose leads will result in either an artifactual signal or no signal at all on the EKG machine.

How can you obtain an EKG without shaving little patches on the patient’s chest?

Trick of the Trade

Cover EKG leads with damp gauze 

Water maximizes the contact surface area between the EKG lead and the patient’s skin. The water easily conducts the cardiac electrical signal.


  • Generously soak gauze with water.
  • Apply gauze over each EKG lead where it contacts hairy skin. 

Thanks to Dr. Gemma Morabito from Rome, Italy for telling me about this trick. Keep a lookout for more of Dr. Morabito’s tricks on her Italian EM website, MedEmIt ( 


Michelle Lin, MD
ALiEM Founder and CEO
Professor and Digital Innovation Lab Director
Department of Emergency Medicine
University of California, San Francisco
Michelle Lin, MD


Professor of Emerg Med at UCSF-Zuckerberg SF General. ALiEM Founder @aliemteam #PostitPearls at Bio:
Michelle Lin, MD