Background: The use of an out-of-hospital 12-lead electrocardiograph (ECG) has long been the salient test used when assessing ischaemic sounding chest pain and is the only clinical tool that allows for early diagnosis and triage of acute coronary syndromes (ACS). This ultimately indicates whether urgent percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI) is indicated. Therefore, the ability to apply and interpret a 12-lead ECGs is a key skill for paramedics with potentially significant effect on patient outcomes.
Objective: This study’s objective was to review and summarize existing literature pertaining to the ability of paramedics to diagnose STEMI via 12-lead ECGs.
Methods: Ovid Medline, Ovid Emcare and CINAHL Plus were all searched using synonyms of keywords such as paramedic, ECG, diagnosis and STEMI. Two investigators independently screened the titles, abstracts and full-texts of the articles against the inclusion and exclusion criteria and discussed any conflicts that arose.
Results: Of the 2,126 articles initially identified, 9 studies were relevant and examined the ability of paramedics to identify STEMI on out-of-hospital ECGs. Results indicated that increased additional education provided to paramedics, and the implementation of protocols and/or tools demonstrated positive results regarding STEMI recognition.
Conclusions: Seven of the 9 articles had a strong general consensus that paramedics can independently interpret 12-lead ECGs in order to diagnose STEMI, however not all studies were of good quality. While the importance of the pre-hospital ECG in the setting of STEMI is well established, the ability of paramedics to independently interpret them is less so and requires further study.
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