Do we do too many 12 lead ECGs on patients who do not have chest pain?
This is something that some people worry about.
Save the electrodes!
Those poor little electrodes are being abused!
Are electrodes being abused?
Women and the elderly with STEMI are particularly likely to present with atypical chief complaints such as dyspnea and weakness. Such patients experience significant delays in door-to-ECG time and treatment and have increased morbidity and mortality compared with patients who present with chest pain.5,9-12 
Tiredness/weakness is the second best predictor of STEMI (ST segment Elevation Myocardial Infarction).
After chest pain (pressure, tightness, heaviness, squeezing, et cetera), the best predictor of STEMI is dyspnea in akll age ranges, but dyspnea indicates 20% of STEMIs in patients over 80 years old.
Are we helping anyone by avoiding 12 lead ECG (ElectroCardioGram) assessment?
Presenting chief complaints among 6,464 patients with STEMI. Chest pain decreased in frequency with age, whereas a chief complaint of dyspnea, weakness, syncope, or altered mental status all increased in frequency with age.
The advantage of a logarithmic chart is that there is greater distinction among the smaller numbers (such as the other complaints that make up less than 5% in the image above). The disadvantage is that large changes are flattened. I modified the dyspnea line to show how it would look on a linear scale (from 5% to 20%). As you can see, the ability to predict STEMI increases dramatically with age – more dramatically than the logarithmic scale suggests.
How should we remember all of this?
The authors came up with a nice simple flow chart (below).
This is for the ED, but is there a good reason for EMS to ignore these STEMIs?
Even in the 18-49 year old patients, dyspnea is about as likely to predict a STEMI as weakness is likely to predict a STEMI in an 80+ year old patient.
Chest pain still indicates about 50% of STEMI patients over 80, but we will miss half of STEMIs in this population if we only do 12 leads on chest pain patients.
Can an 80+ year old patient have a good quality of life after a STEMI?
 Development and validation of a prioritization rule for obtaining an immediate 12-lead electrocardiogram in the emergency department to identify ST-elevation myocardial infarction.
Glickman SW, Shofer FS, Wu MC, Scholer MJ, Ndubuizu A, Peterson ED, Granger CB, Cairns CB, Glickman LT.
Am Heart J. 2012 Mar;163(3):372-82. doi: 10.1016/j.ahj.2011.10.021.
PMID: 22424007 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
Glickman SW, Shofer FS, Wu MC, Scholer MJ, Ndubuizu A, Peterson ED, Granger CB, Cairns CB, & Glickman LT (2012). Development and validation of a prioritization rule for obtaining an immediate 12-lead electrocardiogram in the emergency department to identify ST-elevation myocardial infarction. American heart journal, 163 (3), 372-82 PMID: 22424007