Prognostic value of a normal or nonspecific initial electrocardiogram in acute myocardial infarction

JAMA. 2001 Oct 24-31;286(16):1977-84. doi: 10.1001/jama.286.16.1977.


Context: Although previous studies have suggested that normal and nonspecific initial electrocardiograms (ECGs) are associated with a favorable prognosis for patients with acute myocardial infarction (AMI), their independent predictive value for mortality has not been examined.

Objective: To compare in-hospital mortality among patients with AMI who have normal or nonspecific initial ECGs with that of patients who have diagnostic ECGs.

Design, setting, and patients: Multihospital observational study in which 391 208 patients with AMI met the study criteria between June 1994 and June 2000 and had ECGs that were normal (n = 30 759), nonspecific (n = 137 574), or diagnostic (n = 222 875; defined as ST-segment elevation or depression and/or left bundle-branch block). A logistic regression model was constructed using a propensity score for ECG findings and data on demographics, medical history, diagnostic procedures, and therapy to determine the independent prognostic value of a normal or nonspecific initial ECG.

Main outcome measures: In-hospital mortality; composite outcome of in-hospital death and life-threatening adverse events.

Results: In-hospital mortality rates were 5.7%, 8.7%, and 11.5% while the rates of the composite of mortality and life-threatening adverse events were 19.2%, 27.5%, and 34.9% for the normal, nonspecific, and diagnostic ECG groups, respectively. After adjusting for other predictor variables, the odds of mortality for the normal ECG group was 0.59 (95% confidence interval [CI], 0.56-0.63; P<.001) and for the nonspecific group was 0.70 (95% CI, 0.68-0.72; P<.001), compared with the diagnostic ECG group.

Conclusion: In this large cohort of patients with AMI, patients presenting with normal or nonspecific ECGs did have lower in-hospital mortality rates than those of patients with diagnostic ECGs, yet the absolute rates were still unexpectedly high.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Electrocardiography*
  • Female
  • Hospital Mortality*
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Matched-Pair Analysis
  • Middle Aged
  • Myocardial Infarction / mortality
  • Myocardial Infarction / physiopathology*
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Prognosis
  • United States / epidemiology