A ST-elevation myocardial infarction (STEMI) can portend significant morbidity and mortality to the patient and therefore must be rapidly diagnosed by an emergency medicine (EM) physician. The primary aim of this study is to determine whether EM physicians are more or less likely to accurately diagnose STEMI on an electrocardiogram (ECG) if they are blinded to the ECG machine interpretation as opposed to if they are provided the ECG machine interpretation.
We performed a retrospective chart review of adult patients over 18 years of age admitted to our large, urban tertiary care center with a diagnosis of STEMI from January 1, 2016 through December 31, 2017. From these patients’ charts, we selected 31 ECGs to create a quiz that was presented twice to a group of emergency physicians. The first quiz contained the 31 ECGs without the computer interpretations revealed. The second quiz, presented to the same physicians two weeks later, contained the same set of ECGs with the computer interpretations revealed. Physicians were asked “Based on the ECG above, is there a blocked coronary artery present causing a STEMI?”
Twenty-five EM physicians completed two 31-question ECG quizzes for a total of 1550 ECG interpretations. On the first quiz with computer interpretations blinded, the overall sensitivity in identifying a “true STEMI” was 67.2 % with an overall accuracy of 65.6%. On the second quiz in which the ECG machine interpretation was revealed, the overall sensitivity was 66.4% with an accuracy of 65.8 % in correctly identifying a STEMI. The differences in sensitivity and accuracy were not statistically significant.
This study demonstrated no significant difference in physicians blinded versus those unblinded to computer interpretations of possible STEMI.