Arrhythmias in general practice: diagnostic value of patient characteristics, medical history and symptoms

Fam Pract. 1998 Aug;15(4):343-53. doi: 10.1093/fampra/15.4.343.


Background: Complaints possibly caused by arrhythmias are frequently seen in general practice. It is unclear to what extent such complaints can differentiate between arrhythmias and other pathology in general practice.

Objectives: We aimed to assess the value of symptoms (a) in diagnosing arrhythmias in general practice and (b) in identifying patients with clinically relevant arrhythmias.

Method: During a 2-year period, a structured history from 762 patients with new complaints possibly related to an arrhythmia was taken by the GP, and a transtelephonic electrocardiogram (ECG) was made.

Results: In 28.3% of the patients, arrhythmias were detected and 8.8% were clinically relevant. Several patient characteristics, symptoms and medical history findings have high predictive values in diagnosing arrhythmias. In the logistic regression analysis, age and, to a lesser extent, male gender, palpitations and dyspnoea during consultation and the use of cardiovascular drugs are associated with the presence of arrhythmias. In detecting clinically relevant arrhythmias the same parameters apart from gender are important, as well as a history of arrhythmias. The use of central nervous system medication and frequent psychosomatic complaints are negatively associated with the presence of clinically relevant arrhythmias.

Conclusions: In general practice, patient characteristics, symptoms and medical history findings can be used in the detection of arrhythmias and the assessment of their severity. They can help in the decision of whether to make an ECG recording.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Distribution
  • Aged
  • Arrhythmias, Cardiac / diagnosis*
  • Delivery of Health Care
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Electrocardiography
  • Family Practice
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Medical History Taking*
  • Middle Aged
  • Netherlands
  • Odds Ratio
  • Physical Examination*
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Risk Factors
  • Sex Distribution