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Improving the interpretation of electrocardiographs in an accident and emergency department.
  1. T. White,
  2. P. Woodmansey,
  3. D. G. Ferguson,
  4. K. S. Channer
  1. Department of Cardiology, Royal Hallamshire Hospital, Sheffield, UK.


    In this study we have examined the ability of senior house officers in the Accident and Emergency (A&E) Department to interpret electrocardiographs (ECGs) and tested the value of a single seminar and guidelines on interpretation. We prospectively audited ECG interpretation taken from notes over a two-month period and repeated this audit following a single seminar by a consultant cardiologist and after the issue of guidelines. A formal test of interpretation of a set of 20 ECGs by senior house officers in A&E was also carried out. 245 case notes were reviewed and in one third the ECG was interpreted incorrectly by senior house officers in A&E but incorrect clinical management followed in only 3.2% of cases. Following the intervention, 242 case notes were reviewed and serious misinterpretations were halved as was the number of patients mismanaged as a result (1.7%). In conclusion, formal training in ECG interpretation can reduce serious errors.

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