ECGs by ambulance crews lead to better patient outcomes

ECGs carried out by ambulance crews on suspected heart attack patients can help save lives, according to new research.

The study, by researchers at the University of Surrey and published in the journal Heart, has identified a positive link between the survival of heart attack patients and the use of an electrocardiogram (ECG), by ambulance crews.

The researchers analysed data from almost half a million adults admitted with a heart attack to hospitals in England and Wales, noting whether patients who came to hospital by ambulance had an ECG test or not.

The results showed that the number of patients who died within 30 days of being admitted to hospital was significantly lower when an ECG test had been carried out by ambulance crews.

The study also revealed a third of patients admitted to hospital with a heart attack were not having the test in the ambulance, with certain groups of patients including women, the elderly and people from black and minority ethnic groups, less likely to have an ECG.

British Heart Foundation Associate Medical Director, Dr Mike Knapton, said: “The test helps paramedics provide the most appropriate treatment outside hospital and means that hospital staff are more prepared when the patient arrives.

“The results, made possible by studying huge numbers of medical records, clearly support existing guidelines on using an ECG test before patients reach hospital. So it’s vital that all patients who show signs of a heart attack have this simple test.”