Diagnostic value of prehospital ECG in acute stroke patients

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Abstract

Objective:

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

Methods:

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.

Results:

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.

Conclusions:

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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