Posted on 07/30/2012

New guidelines from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF), comprised of 16 volunteer members, recommend against screening with electrocardiography (ECG) during rest or exercise to predict coronary heart disease (CHD) events in asymptomatic adults at low risk for CHD events.

An ECG is a simple, non-invasive test that measures electrical activity from the heart. Information picked up from an ECG may determine how fast a heart beat is, or whether it has a steady or problematic rhythm. An irregular ECG could detect a major heart problem, including heart attacks, arrhythmias and heart failure.

While the panel recommends against giving ECGs to healthy adults, some physicians believe they're important in order to establish baseline measures when people are healthy in case things later go awry, in order to compare the results.

The new guidelines, which were first released by the task force in 2004, are published in the July 30 online edition of the Annals of Internal Medicine.

“Though this general recommendation by USPSTF is based on evidence, it is important for clinicians to remember that it may not apply to individual patients in their practice,” said Dr. Srinivas Murali, MD, FACC, Member, Board of Directors, Sudden Cardiac Arrest Foundation. Murali is Professor of Medicine, Temple University School of Medicine; Adjunct Professor, Department of Biomedical Engineering, Carnegie Mellon University; Director of Cardiovascular Institute, West Penn Allegheny Health System, Pittsburgh, PA.