Open access exercise electrocardiography: does it improve the management of cardiovascular disease in the community?

J R Soc Med. 1990 Mar;83(3):143-5. doi: 10.1177/014107689008300305.


In this study the use of exercise electrocardiography, by 47 general practitioners in South East Kent has been evaluated. Of 110 consecutive requests the majority (88%) were for diagnostic purposes, while only 7% were for prognostic assessment. Many of those referred were young or had non-cardiac chest pain and in 59% of cases the test result was unlikely to alter the clinical assessment of the probability of ischaemic heart disease (IHD). The test result influenced patient management in 85% of cases. Only 15% of patients were subsequently referred to the district general hospital although all had been considered for referral prior to the test. Although referral for invasive investigation of six patients was expedited by the provision of stress testing, in five patients general practitioners failed to consider any further investigation despite the patient having a strongly positive test. General practitioners use exercise electrocardiography primarily to exclude IHD in patients at low risk and provide reassurance. They rarely use the test as a means to guide management of those with known or probable IHD.

MeSH terms

  • Cardiovascular Diseases / diagnosis*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / therapy
  • Community Health Services
  • Electrocardiography / methods
  • Electrocardiography / statistics & numerical data*
  • England
  • Exercise Test / statistics & numerical data*
  • Family Practice
  • Health Services Accessibility*
  • Humans
  • Referral and Consultation
  • Risk