The utility of the triage electrocardiogram for the detection of ST-segment elevation myocardial infarction.

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The American journal of emergency medicine


INTRODUCTION: Current AHA/ACC guidelines on the management of ST-elevation myocardial infarction (STEMI) suggest that an ECG is indicated within 10minutes of arrival for patients arriving to the Emergency Department (ED) with symptoms concerning for STEMI. In response, there has been a creep towards performing ECGs more frequently in triage. The objectives of this study were to quantify the number of triage ECGs performed at our institution, assess the proportion of ECGs performed within current hospital guidelines, and evaluate the rate of STEMI detection in triage ECGs.

METHODS: A retrospective chart review of all emergency department patients presenting over a period of 8days who had a triage ECG performed. Cases of bradycardia or tachycardia were excluded. Data collection included patient demographics, presenting complaint, cardiac risk factors, troponin values, and final diagnosis. Summary statistics are reported in a descriptive manner.

RESULTS: During the study period, 538 patients had a triage ECG for possible STEMI with no STEMI identified and 16 NSTEMI diagnoses (confirmed as positive troponins following ED assessment). Sixty-three (11.7%) patients did not meet internal criteria for a triage ECG. A NSTEMI ED diagnosis was identified in 3% of patients who met internal triage ECG criteria and 1.6% who did not meet criteria (p=0.29). A cost analysis was performed using an average of 50 STEMI cases diagnosed in our ED per given year. Current institutional ECG billing rates for ECGs performed and interpreted is $125 per ECG, providing an estimated triage ECG charge to detect one STEMI at $54,295.

DISCUSSION: This retrospective study of 538 triage ECG's performed over an 8day period identified no STEMIs and 16 NSTEMIs. A very large number of ECGs were done at triage overall and included patients who do not meet our own hospital criteria. Given the extremely low yield and high associated charges, current guidelines for triage ECG for identifying a possible STEMI should be reviewed.

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