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12-07-2019 | Original Article Open Access

Interpretations of and management actions following electrocardiograms in symptomatic patients in primary care: a retrospective dossier study

Netherlands Heart Journal
L. M. E. Wagenvoort, R. T. A. Willemsen, K. T. S. Konings, H. E. J. H. Stoffers
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Electronic supplementary material

The online version of this article (https://​doi.​org/​10.​1007/​s12471-019-01306-y) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.



The electrocardiogram (ECG) has become a popular tool in primary care. The clinical value of the ECG depends on the appropriateness of the indication and the interpretation skills of the general practitioner (GP).


To describe the use of electrocardiography in primary care and to assess the performance of GPs in interpreting ECGs and making subsequent management decisions.


Three hundred ECGs, recorded during daily practice in symptomatic patients by 14 GPs who regularly perform electrocardiography, were selected. Corresponding data of the indications, interpretations and subsequent management actions were extracted from the associated medical records. A panel consisting of an expert GP and a cardiologist reviewed the ECGs and specified their agreement with the findings and actions of the study GPs.


The most common indications were suspicion of a rhythm abnormality (43.7%), ischaemic heart disease (42.7%) and patient reassurance (14.3%). The study GPs interpreted 53.3% of the ECGs as showing no (new or acute) abnormality, whereas supraventricular rhythm disorders (12.3%), conduction disorders (7.7%) and repolarisation disorders (7.0%) were the most frequently reported pathological findings. Overall, the expert panel disagreed with the interpretations of the study GPs in 16.2% of cases, and with the GPs’ management actions in 11.7%. Learning goals for GPs performing electrocardiography could be formulated for acute coronary syndrome, rhythm disorders, pulmonary embolism, reassurance, left ventricular hypertrophy and premature ventricular complexes.


GPs who feel competent in electrocardiography performed well in the opinion of the expert panel. We formulated various learning objectives for GPs performing electrocardiography.

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Netherlands Heart Journal

Het Netherlands Heart Journal wordt uitgegeven in samenwerking met de Nederlandse Vereniging voor Cardiologie en de Nederlandse Hartstichting. Het tijdschrift is Engelstalig en wordt gratis beschikbaa ...

Extra materiaal
Supplementary Table 1 Overview of registered study data
Supplementary Table 2 Characteristics of the general practitioners (N = 14)
Supplementary Table 3 Characteristics of the patients (N = 300)
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