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1. a uniformly advancing disturbance in which the parts undergo a change in direction, such as a progressing disturbance on the surface of a liquid.
2. variation in the transmission of electromagnetic energy, especially the periodic change in direction of a reading on a monitoring device.
A wave the wave on a His bundle electrogram that represents atrial activation.
alpha w's brain waves having a frequency of 8 to 13 per second, typical of a normal person awake in a quiet resting state; they occur primarily in the occipital region.
B wave a sharp rhythmic oscillation with a sawtooth pattern, occurring every 30 seconds to two minutes during intracranial pressure monitoring, associated with unstable increases in pressure.
beta w's brain waves having a frequency of 18 to 30 per second, typical during periods of intense central nervous system activity; they occur primarily in the parietal and frontal regions.
brain w's changes in electric potential of different areas of the brain, as recorded by electroencephalography. See also alpha, beta, delta, and theta waves.
C wave in intracranial pressure monitoring, a small rhythmic oscillation in pressure that occurs every four to eight minutes.
delta w's
1. brain waves having a frequency below 3½ per second, typical in deep sleep, in infancy, and in serious brain disorders.
2. an early QRS vector in the electrocardium in wolff-parkinson-white syndrome.
dicrotic wave the second portion of the tracing of a sphygmograph of the arterial pulse or arterial pressure after the dicrotic notch, attributed to the reflected impulse of closure of the aortic valves. Called also recoil wave
electromagnetic w's the entire series of ethereal waves, which are similar in character and move at the speed of light but vary enormously in wavelength. The unbroken series is known from radio waves that may be many kilometers in length through light waves, ultraviolet rays, x-rays, and gamma rays, to the cosmic rays, whose wavelength may be as short as 40 femtometers (4 × 10−14 m).
light w's the electromagnetic waves that produce sensations on the retina; see also vision.
P wave a positive deflection in the normal surface electrocardiogram produced by the wave of excitation passing over the atria; it represents atrial depolarization, an intrinsic atrial event.
papillary wave (percussion wave) the chief ascending portion of the tracing of a sphygmograph.
plateau wave a wave seen during intracranial pressure monitoring in advanced stages of increased pressure, signaling hypoxia of the brain cells.
pulse wave the elevation of the pulse felt by the finger or shown graphically in a recording of pulse pressure.
Q wave in the QRS complex, the initial electrocardiographic downward (negative) deflection, related to the initial phase of depolarization.
QRS wave QRS complex.
R wave in the normal surface electrocardiogram, the initial upward deflection of the QRS complex, following the Q wave; it represents ventricular depolarization. In cardiac pacing, it may be the entire native or intrinsic QRS complex.
radio w's electromagnetic waves of wavelength between 10−1 and 106 cm and frequency of about 1011 to 104 hertz.
recoil wave dicrotic wave.
S wave a downward deflection of the QRS complex following the R wave in the normal surface electrocardiogram.
sonic w's audible sound waves.
sound w's longitudinal waves of mechanical energy that transmit the vibrations interpreted as sound (def. 2).
T wave the second major deflection of the normal surface electrocardiogram, reflecting the potential variations occurring with repolarization of the ventricles.
theta w's brain waves having a frequency of 4 to 7 per second, occurring mainly in children but also seen in adults under emotional stress.
tidal wave the wave after the percussion wave on a sphygmograph recording; the second elevation of the tracing, preceding the dicrotic wave.
ultrasonic w's waves similar to sonic waves but of such high frequency (20,000 hertz or higher) that the human ear does not perceive them as sound; see ultrasonics.
Miller-Keane Encyclopedia and Dictionary of Medicine, Nursing, and Allied Health, Seventh Edition. © 2003 by Saunders, an imprint of Elsevier, Inc. All rights reserved.


1. A movement of particles in an elastic body, whether solid or fluid, that produces a progression of alternate elevations and depressions, or rarefactions and condensations.
See also: rhythm.
2. The elevation of the pulse, felt by the finger or represented in the curved line of the sphygmograph.
See also: rhythm.
3. The complete cycle of changes in the level of an energy source that repetitively varies over time; in the electrocardiogram and the electroencephalogram, the wave is essentially a voltage-time graph.
See also: rhythm.
[A.S. wafian, to fluctuate]
Farlex Partner Medical Dictionary © Farlex 2012


Medtalk A continuous, uniformly advancing oscillation about a “zero” point; a wavelike pattern. See A wave, Alpha wave, Blood pressure wave, Body wave, Brain wave, C wave, Cannon 'a' wave, ' Compression wave, Delta wave, F wave, Fluid wave, H wave, Heat wave, Herald wave, J wave, Lambda wave, M wave, P wave, Pontine-geniculate-occipital wave, Q wave, R wave, S wave, Sine wave, Slow wave, Square wave, T wave, Theta wave, U wave, V wave, Zigzag QRS wave.
McGraw-Hill Concise Dictionary of Modern Medicine. © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.


1. A movement of particles in an elastic body, whether solid or fluid, whereby an advancing series of alternate elevations and depressions, or expansions and condensations, is produced.
2. The elevation of the pulse, felt by the finger, or represented graphically in the curved line of the sphygmograph.
3. The complete cycle of changes in the level of a source of energy that is repetitively varying with respect to time; in the electrocardiogram and the electroencephalogram, the wave is essentially a voltage-time graph.
See also: rhythm
[A.S. wafian, to fluctuate]
Medical Dictionary for the Health Professions and Nursing © Farlex 2012


1. A disturbance, usually orderly and predictable, observed as a moving ridge with a definable frequency and amplitude.
2. An undulating or vibrating motion.
Enlarge picture
3. An oscillation seen in the recording of an electrocardiogram, electroencephalogram, or other graphic record of physiological activity. See: illustration
Enlarge picture

a wave

1. A venous neck wave produced by atrial contraction.
2. A component of right atrial and pulmonary artery wedge pressure tracings produced by atrial contraction. The a wave just precedes the first heart sound. It is absent in atrial fibrillation and is larger in atrioventricular dissociation and in conditions causing dilation of the right atrium.

afterpotential wave

The wave produced after the action potential wave passes along a nerve. On the recording of the electrical activity, it will be either a negative or positive wave smaller than the main spike.

alpha wave

An electroencephalographic deflection often generated by cells in the visual cortex of the brain. See: alpha rhythm

beta wave

An electroencephalographic deflection. Its frequency is between 18 and 30 Hz. See: beta rhythm

blast wave

A shock wave produced by a blast or explosion. The wave front consists of air under very high pressure that can cause great damage to people, objects, and structures.

brain wave

The fluctuation, usually rhythmic, of electrical impulses produced by the brain.
See: electroencephalography

c wave

A component of right atrial and pulmonary capillary wedge pressure waves. It reflects the closing of the tricuspid valve at the beginning of ventricular systole. An abnormal configuration is seen in increased right heart pressure and with abnormalities of the tricuspid valve.

delta wave

An abnormal deflection seen on the electrocardiogram in patients with pre-excitation syndromes, such as Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome. It occurs at the beginning of the QRS complex and is classically described as causing the complex to have a "slurred upstroke."

dicrotic wave

A positive wave following the dicrotic notch.

electromagnetic wave

A wave-form produced by simultaneous oscillation of electric and magnetic fields perpendicular to each other. The direction of propagation of the wave is perpendicular to the oscillations. The following waves, in order of increasing frequency and decreasing wavelength, are electromagnetic: radio, television, microwave, infrared, visible light, ultraviolet, x-rays, and gamma rays.
See: electromagnetic spectrum for table

excitation wave

The wave of irritability originating in the sinoatrial node that sweeps over the conducting tissue of the heart and induces contraction of the atria and ventricles.

F wave

Flutter waves in atrial fibrillation, detectable on the electrocardiogram at 250 to 350 per minute.

f wave

A fibrillatory wave seen as the wavy base line on the electrocardiogram tracing of atrial fibrillation. These waves are caused by multiple ectopic foci in the atria.

J wave

An upwardly curving deflection of the J point of the electrocardiogram, found in patients whose body temperature is less than 32°C. This finding is one cardiac effect of hypothermia. The J wave has a particular shape; viewed from above, its surface is convex. Synonym: Osborne wave

light wave

An electromagnetic wave that stimulates the retina or other optical sensors.

Mayer wave

See: Mayer wave

Osborne wave

J wave.

P wave

See: electrocardiogram

postdicrotic wave

A recoil or second wave (not always present) in a blood pressure tracing.

pulse wave

The pressure wave originated by the systolic discharge of blood into the aorta. It is not due to the passage of the ejected blood but is the result of the impact being transmitted through the arterial walls. The velocity in the aorta may be as high as 500 cm/sec and as low as 0.07 cm/sec in capillaries. The speed of transmission varies with the nature of the arterial wall, increasing with age as the arteries become less resilient. Thus in arteriosclerosis, the velocity is increased over normal.

Q wave

A downward or negative wave of an electrocardiogram following the P wave. It is usually not prominent and may be absent without significance. New Q waves are present on the electrocardiogram after patients suffer myocardial infarction.
See: electrocardiogram

R wave

See: electrocardiogram

radio wave

An electromagnetic wave between the frequencies of 1011 and 104 Hz.

S wave

See: electrocardiogram

shock wave

1. A compression wave produced by a shock such as an earthquake or explosion that is characterized by a sudden change in air pressure, density, and velocity.
2. An electromagnetic or sonic shock wave focused at a specific target (e.g., within the body).

sound wave

A vibration of a vibrating medium that, on stimulating sensory receptors of the cochlea, is capable of giving rise to a sensation of sound. In dry air, the velocity is 1087 ft (331.6 m)/sec at 0°C; in water, it is approx. four times faster than in air.

T wave

The portion of the electrical activity of the heart that reflects repolarization of the ventricles.
See: electrocardiogram; interval, Q-T

theta wave

A brain wave present in the electroencephalogram. It has a frequency of about 4 to 7 Hz.

U wave

In the electrocardiogram, a low-amplitude deflection that follows the T wave. It is exaggerated in hypokalemia and with digitalis use, and negative in ventricular hypertrophy.
See: QRST complex; electrocardiogram

ultrashort wave

An arbitrary designation of radio waves of a wavelength of less than 1 m.

ultrasonic wave

A sound wave of greater frequency than 20 kHz. These waves do not produce sound audible to the human ear.
Medical Dictionary, © 2009 Farlex and Partners


1. Movement of particles in an elastic body, whether solid or fluid, which produces a progression of alternate elevations and depressions, or rarefactions and condensations.
2. The elevation of the pulse, felt by the finger or represented in the curved line of the sphygmograph.
[A.S. wafian, to fluctuate]
Medical Dictionary for the Dental Professions © Farlex 2012

Patient discussion about wave

Q. What kind of depression is characterized by waves? It's not a constant depression, like if you can be happy but then you feel the depression creeping up on you, like a wave, lasts for a few to several days/weeks? Is there even a name for it?

A. Depression doesn't have to be a constant 24/7 nightmare. You can smile and laugh all day but by the evening be miserable. Its still depression. There are however different labels with depression. There is acute depression (lasting less than two weeks) there is Major Depression (lasting more than two weeks) and there is chronic (lasting a LONG time). People all have different levels of severity and different expressions of it. Some people stop eating and can't leave their bed, others have a smile on there face and seem fine at work, all while they are being torn apart on the inside. As far as diagnosis and treatment goes: if depression is disturbing your life, if you have been experiencing symptoms including loss of interest everyday (not necessarily ALL day) for more than two weeks, you are depressed and deserve treatment.

(Bipolar is actually a very different thing and treated very differently than depression.)

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