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Monday 24th October 2016

ECGs no better than routine assessment

14th November 2008

Researchers say that electrocardiagram tests carried out on patients with chest pain have little value in predicting future heart disease.


They say that doctors should spend more time questioning patients about their symptoms and examining them rather than relying on an electrocardiagram (ECG) test.

The study, which followed 8,176 suspected angina patients, was conducted by researchers at the London Chest Hospital and has been published in the British Medical Journal.

Of those patients, 60% had an exercise ECG performed. Among those, 1,422 not only had the basic "summary" results recorded but had detailed data from the ECG used to help make a diagnosis.

However, in the subsequent years where patients were followed up, about half of those who had coronary events such as heart attack had ECG results that had not indicated there were any problems.

Researchers concluded the tests were of limited value to doctors assessing a patient with no prior heart disease.

Dr Mike Knapton from the British Heart Foundation said that it was important to diagnose angina early but the study had showed that talking to the patient was the best way for a doctor to achieve that.

"Tests such as resting or exercise ECGs can be helpful when patients present with unusual symptoms or suffer from chest pain following a heart bypass," he said.

"But exercise ECG is not very good at assessing future risk. Better risk assessment of patients with angina is needed to help identify those most at risk of heart attack or death."


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