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Clin Cardiol. 2009 Dec;32(12):668-75. doi: 10.1002/clc.20673.

Prehospital electrocardiograms (ECGs) do not improve the process of emergency department care in hospitals with higher usage of ECGs in non-ST-segment elevation myocardial infarction patients.

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Department of Emergency Medicine, Ohio State University, Columbus, OH 43210, USA.



This article will describe the impact of prehospital electrocardiogram (ECG) use on emergency department (ED) processes of care for non-ST-segment elevation myocardial infarction (NSTEMI) patients and assess the characteristics associated with prehospital ECG use.


This is a retrospective, multicenter, observational analysis of NSTEMI patients captured by the National Cardiovascular Data Registry-Acute Coronary Treatment and Intervention Outcomes Network Registry-Get with the Guidelines (NCDR ACTION-GWTG) in 2007. Patient and hospital data were stratified by documentation of a prehospital ECG (pECG). Hospitals were stratified into tertiles of pECG use by higher pECG (>5.6%, n 91), lower pECG (< or = 5.6%, n = 83), or no pECG (n = 100). Statistical evaluation was done via Wilcoxon rank sum and chi(2) tests.


There were 21 251 patients eligible for analysis. A pECG was documented in 1609 (7.6%) patients. Of 274 hospitals, 100 (36.5%) had no pECGs recorded. Median ED length of stay (LOS) was shorter at no pECG hospitals vs lower pECG hospitals (3.97 h vs 4.12 h, P < 0.05), but not higher pECG hospitals vs no pECG hospitals (3.85 h vs 3.97 h, P = not significant [NS]). A pECG was not associated with an improvement in ED performance metrics (use of aspirin, beta-blocker, any heparin) in the higher pECG hospitals vs no pECG hospitals or the lower pECG hospitals vs no pECG hospitals.


Use of prehospital ECG in NSTEMI patients is uncommon. In contrast to its impact on reperfusion times in ST-segment elevation myocardial infarction (STEMI) patients, its use does not appear to be associated with an improvement in ED processes of care at the hospital level.

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