Screening Electrocardiograms Have Low Utility in Medical Clearance before Pediatric Inpatient Psychiatric Admission

Sarah D. Becker, Ellis Rochelson, Michael Lienhard, David Silber, Wenzhu B. Mowrey, Lisa Hutchison

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Objectives: Children presenting to the emergency department (ED) requiring psychiatric admission often undergo screening electrocardiograms (ECG) as part of the medical clearance process. The diagnostic yield of screening ECGs for this purpose has not been reported. The purpose of this study was to determine the clinical utility of screening ECGs in children and adolescents requiring acute inpatient psychiatric admission. Methods: A single-center retrospective study of patients aged 5 to 18 years who did not have documented indications for ECG and underwent screening ECG before psychiatric inpatient admission over a 2-year period was conducted. Abnormal ECGs were identified via chart review and were reinterpreted by a pediatric cardiologist to determine potential significance to psychiatric care. Impact on treatment and disposition was examined. Results: From January 2018 through December 2019, 252 eligible pediatric patients had a screening ECG in the ED before psychiatric admission. Twenty-one (8.3%) of these ECGs were interpreted as abnormal, and 6 (2.4%) were determined to be potentially relevant to psychiatric care in the setting of specific medication use. The abnormal ECG interpretations resulted in additional workup and/or cardiology consultation for 7 (2.7%) patients but had no impact on psychiatric admission. Conclusions: In the absence of concerning individual or family history or cardiac symptoms, routine screening ECGs as part of medical clearance for psychiatric admission are not warranted given the low yield of meaningful findings. The decision to obtain an ECG should be made with careful consideration of medical history and in the presence of specific indications.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)E393-E397
JournalPediatric Emergency Care
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2022


  • Medical clearance
  • Psychiatry
  • Psychotropic medication
  • Screening electrocardiograms

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Emergency Medicine


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