A method for improving arrival-to-electrocardiogram time in emergency department chest pain patients and the effect on door-to-balloon time for ST-segment elevation myocardial infarction

Kevin M Takakuwa, Gregory A Burek, Adrian T Estepa, Frances S Shofer
Academic Emergency Medicine 2009, 16 (10): 921-7

OBJECTIVES: The objectives were to determine if an emergency department (ED) could improve the adherence to a door-to-electrocardiogram (ECG) time goal of 10 minutes or less for patients who presented to an ED with chest pain and the effect of this adherence on door-to-balloon (DTB) time for ST-segment elevation myocardial infarction (STEMI) cardiac catheterization (cath) alert patients.

METHODS: This was a planned 1-month before-and-after interventional study design for implementing a new process for obtaining ECGs in patients presenting to the study ED with chest pain. Prior to the change, patients were registered and triaged before an ECG was obtained. The new procedure required registration clerks to identify those with chest pain and directly overhead page or call a designated ECG technician. This technician had other ED duties, but prioritized performing ECGs and delivering them to attending physicians. A full registration process occurred after the clinical staff performed their initial assessment. The primary outcome was the total percentage of patients with chest pain who received an ECG within 10 minutes of ED arrival. The secondary outcome was DTB time for patients with STEMI who were emergently cath alerted. Data were analyzed using mean differences, 95% confidence intervals (CIs), and relative risk (RR) regression to adjust for possible confounders.

RESULTS: A total of 719 patients were studied: 313 before and 405 after the intervention. The mean (+/-standard deviation [SD]) age was 50 (+/-16) years, 54% were women, 57% were African American, and 36% were white. Patients walked in 89% of the time; 11% arrived by ambulance. Thirty-nine percent were triaged as emergent and 61% as nonemergent. Patients presented during daytime 68% of the time, and 32% presented during the night. Before the intervention, 16% received an ECG at 10 minutes or less. After the intervention, 64% met the time requirement, for a mean difference of 47.3% (95% CI = 40.8% to 53.3%, p < 0.0001). Results were not affected by age, sex, race, mode of arrival, triage classification, or time of arrival. For patients with STEMI cath alerts, four were seen before and seven after the intervention. No patients before the intervention had ECG time within 10 minutes, and one of four had DTB time of <90 minutes. After the intervention, all seven patients had ECG time within 10 minutes; the three arriving during weekday hours when the cath team was on site had DTB times of <90 minutes, but the four arriving at night and on weekends when the cath team was off site had DTB times of >90 minutes.

CONCLUSIONS: The overall percentage of patients with a door-to-ECG time within 10 minutes improved without increasing staffing. An ECG was performed within 10 minutes of arrival for all patients who were STEMI cath alerted, but DTB time under 90 minutes was achieved only when the cath team was on site.

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