• electrocardiographic measurements;
  • P wave duration;
  • P wave dispersion;
  • intraobserver and interobserver errors

To determine whether different methods for the manual measurement of P wave duration are mutually consistent, we evaluated the intraobserver and interobserver errors of P wave measurements obtained in three different ways: (1) by cursor on a high resolution computer screen (on screen), (2) by calipers and a magnifying glass (on paper), and (3) by a high resolution digitizing board (on board). The agreement between the methods was assessed in 30 normal subjects and 30 patients with a history of atrial fibrillation. The maximum P wave duration (P maximum), the minimum P wave duration (P minimum), mean P wave duration (P mean), P wave dispersion (P dispersion = P maximum - P minimum), and the standard deviation of the P wave duration in all measured leads (P SD) were calculated from a 12-lead electrocardiogram in each subject. Only P maximum, P mean, and P dispersion were significantly higher in patients than in controls with all three methods. Intraobserver and interobserver relative errors were significantly different among the three methods; the lowest errors were associated with the on-screen measurement. The agreement between the three different methods was acceptable for P maximum, P mean, and P SD and rather poor for P minimum and P dispersion in both groups. The differences of the measurement by different methods did not consistently differ between the two groups. Hence, the on-screen measurements are consistent with other manual methods and provide more stable results. Manual measurement of ECG patterns should be preferably performed with digital ECG recordings displayed on a high resolution computer screen.