Diagnostic value of prehospital ECG in acute stroke patients

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To investigate the diagnostic yield of prehospital ECG monitoring provided by emergency medical services in the case of suspected stroke.


Consecutive patients with acute stroke admitted to our tertiary stroke center via emergency medical services and with available prehospital ECG were prospectively included during a 12-month study period. We assessed prehospital ECG recordings and compared the results to regular 12-lead ECG on admission and after continuous ECG monitoring at the stroke unit.


Overall, 259 patients with prehospital ECG recording were included in the study (90.3% ischemic stroke, 9.7% intracerebral hemorrhage). Atrial fibrillation (AF) was detected in 25.1% of patients, second-degree or greater atrioventricular block in 5.4%, significant ST-segment elevation in 5.0%, and ventricular ectopy in 9.7%. In 18 patients, a diagnosis of new-onset AF with direct clinical consequences for the evaluation and secondary prevention of stroke was established by the prehospital recordings. In 2 patients, the AF episodes were limited to the prehospital period and were not detected by ECG on admission or during subsequent monitoring at the stroke unit. Of 126 patients (48.6%) with relevant abnormalities in the prehospital ECG, 16.7% received medical antiarrhythmic therapy during transport to the hospital, and 6.4% were transferred to a cardiology unit within the first 24 hours in the hospital.


In a selected cohort of patients with stroke, the in-field recordings of the ECG detected a relevant rate of cardiac arrhythmia. The results can add to the in-hospital evaluation and should be considered in prehospital care of acute stroke.

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