Justification of an Introductory Electrocardiogram Teaching Mnemonic by Demonstration of its Prognostic Value

  • Muhammad Soofi
    Ohio State University College of Medicine, Columbus
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  • Celina Yong
    Stanford Cardiovascular Institute/The Division of Cardiovascular Medicine, Department of Medicine, Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, Calif
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  • Victor Froelicher
    Requests for reprints should be addressed to Victor Froelicher, MD, Stanford Cardiovascular Institute, The Division of Cardiovascular Medicine, Department of Medicine, Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, CA 94305.
    Stanford Cardiovascular Institute/The Division of Cardiovascular Medicine, Department of Medicine, Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, Calif

    Veterans Affairs Palo Alto Health Care System, Palo Alto, Calif
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      With diminishing time afforded to electrocardiography in the medical curriculum, we have found Sibbitt's simple mnemonic, the Diagonal Line Lead Rule, for a pattern recognition approach to 12-lead electrocardiogram (ECG) interpretation to be appreciated by students. However, it still lacks universal acceptance because its clinical utility has not been documented. The study objective was to demonstrate the clinical utility of the Diagonal Line Lead ECG Teaching Rule.


      After excluding ECGs of high-risk patients with Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome and QRS durations greater than 120 ms, the initial ECGs of the remaining 43,798 patients were scored according to the Diagonal Line Lead Rule. A total of 45,497 patients from the Veterans Affairs Palo Alto Healthcare System were referred for a routine initial resting ECG from 1987 to 1999. We determined cardiovascular mortality with 8 years of follow-up.


      In patients with normal QRS duration, diagnostic Q-wave or T-wave inversions isolated to the diagonal line leads showed no increased risk of cardiovascular death. Q-wave or T-wave inversion in any other lead was significantly associated with cardiovascular death with an age-adjusted Cox hazard of 2.6 (confidence interval, 2.4-2.8; P < .0001) and an annual cardiovascular mortality rate of 3.0%. Leads V4-V6, I, and aVL were especially significant predictors of cardiovascular death, with a Cox hazard greater than 3.


      Our analysis demonstrates the prognostic power and clinical utility of a simple mnemonic for 12-lead ECG interpretation that can facilitate ECG teaching and interpretation.


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