Adherence to national guidelines for drug treatment of suspected acute myocardial infarction: evidence for undertreatment in women and the elderly

Arch Intern Med. 1996 Apr 8;156(7):799-805.


Background: Evidence-based guidelines for the treatment of patients with acute myocardial infarction (AMI) have been published and disseminated by the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association. Few studies have examined the rates of adherence to these guidelines in eligible populations and the influence of age and gender on highly effective AMI treatments in community hospital settings.

Methods: Medical records of 2409 individuals admitted to 37 Minnesota hospitals between October 1992 and July 1993 for AMI, suspected AMI, or rule-out AMI, and meeting electrocardiographic, laboratory, and clinical criteria suggestive of AMI were reviewed to determine the proportion of eligible patients who received thrombolytic, beta-blocker, aspirin, and lidocaine hydrochloride therapy. The effects of patient age, gender, and hospital teaching status on the use of these treatments were estimated using logistic regression models.

Results: Eligibility for treatment ranged from 68% (n=1627) for aspirin therapy, 38% (n=906) for lidocaine therapy, and 30% (n=734) for thrombolytic therapy to 19% (n=447) for beta-blocker therapy. Seventy-two percent of patients eligible to receive a thrombolytic agent received this therapy; 53% received beta-blockers; 81% received aspirin; and 88% received lidocaine. Among patients ineligible for lidocaine therapy (n=1503), 20% received this agent. Use of study drugs was lower among eligible elderly patients, especially those older than 74 years (thrombolytic agent: odds ratio, 0.2; 95% confidence interval, 0.1 to 0.4; aspirin: odds ratio, 0.4, 95% confidence interval, 0.3 to 0.6; beta-blocker: odds ratio, 0.4; 95% confidence interval, 0.2 to 0.8). Female gender was associated with lower levels of aspirin use among eligible patients (odds ratio, 0.7; 95% confidence interval, 0.6 to 0.9); and there was a trend toward lower levels of beta-blocker and thrombolytic use among eligible women.

Conclusions: Use of lifesaving therapies for eligible patients with AMI is higher than previously reported, particularly for aspirin and thrombolytic use in nonelderly patients. Lidocaine is still used inappropriately in a substantial proportion of patients with AMI. Increased adherence to AMI treatment guidelines is required for elderly patients and women.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adrenergic beta-Antagonists / therapeutic use
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Anti-Arrhythmia Agents / therapeutic use
  • Aspirin / therapeutic use
  • Drug Utilization
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lidocaine / therapeutic use
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Myocardial Infarction / drug therapy*
  • Platelet Aggregation Inhibitors / therapeutic use
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic*
  • Sex Factors
  • Thrombolytic Therapy


  • Adrenergic beta-Antagonists
  • Anti-Arrhythmia Agents
  • Platelet Aggregation Inhibitors
  • Lidocaine
  • Aspirin