Objective: To estimate the benefit of routine electrocardiographic (ECG) telemetry monitoring on in-hospital cardiac arrest survival.
Methods: In a tertiary care hospital, all telemetry ward admissions and cardiac arrests occurring over a five-year period were reviewed. Ward location and survival to discharge were determined for all patients outside of critical care areas.
Results: During the study period, 8,932 patients were admitted to the telemetry ward, and 20 suffered cardiac arrest (0.2%; 95% CI = 0.1 to 0.3). Telemetry monitors signaled the onset of cardiac arrest in only 56% (95% CI = 30 to 80) of monitored arrests. Three patients survived to discharge, and in two of these three patients the arrest onset was signaled by the monitor. This yields a monitor-signaled survival rate among telemetry ward patients of 0.02% (95% CI = 0 to 0.05). All survivors suffered significant arrhythmias prior to their cardiac arrests.
Conclusions: Cardiac arrest is an uncommon event among telemetry ward patients, and monitor-signaled survivors are extremely rare. Routine telemetry offers little cardiac arrest survival benefit to most monitored patients, and a more selective policy for telemetry use might safely avoid ECG monitoring for many patients.