THIS DAY IN MEDICAL HISTORY, 1985 – Have you always wondered how ECG of the Day Toilet Paper came to be in the first place? And who was smart enough to invent it?
Back on this day in 1985, cardiologist Steven Vector was one of many Americans affected by the infamous Toilet Paper Shortage of ‘85. Due to tensions with the Soviet Union during the Cold War, toilet paper production fell and Americans were left to improvise ways to wipe themselves: loose-leaf paper, envelopes, paper plates, pillowcases, and candy wrappers.
One day at work, Vector was in the bathroom reading an ECG when he realized, “Crap, no toilet paper here either!” It was then that he had his epiphany. He wiped, flushed, and the rest as they say is history.
For decades, ECG of the Day Toilet Paper or Vector’s TP was the preferred method to master ECG interpretation. Up until the mid-1990s, calipers were available in bathrooms everywhere. Cardiology rounds would be done at toiletside. During a prolonged bout of constipation, one could cement their understanding of arrhythmias and atrioventricular blocks.
To this day, toilet paper sheets with atrioventricular nodal reentrant tachycardia (AVNRT) or Wolff-Parkinson-White (WPW) syndrome are considered TP classics. Though popularity has recently waned due to issues with anal irritation from peaked T waves, ask any cardiologist and they will tell you their house is filled with rolls and rolls of Vector’s TP. Need to wipe and learn an ECG? Then come and grab Vector’s TP! was the old commercial jingle.
Next time you wipe and use plain ole white TP, think about your missed opportunity to learn and remember Dr. Steven Vector, a Cold War hero of bowel movements and ECG interpretation. (Bonus trivia: the ECG during Vector’s 1985 epiphany only revealed sinus bradycardia with a heart rate in the fifties. Unbelievably anticlimactic, I know.)