Patients with both true and false arrhythmia alarms pose a challenge because true alarms might be buried among a large number of false alarms, leading to missed true events.
To determine (1) the frequency of patients with both true and false arrhythmia alarms; (2) patient, clinical, and electrocardiographic characteristics associated with both true and false alarms; and (3) the frequency and types of true and false arrhythmia alarms.
This was a secondary analysis using data from an alarm study conducted at a tertiary academic medical center.
Of 461 intensive care unit patients, 211 (46%) had no arrhythmia alarms, 12 (3%) had only true alarms, 167 (36%) had only false alarms, and 71 (15%) had both true and false alarms. Ventricular pacemaker, altered mental status, mechanical ventilation, and cardiac intensive care unit admission were present more often in patients with both true and false alarms than among other patients (P < .001). Intensive care unit stays were longer in patients with only false alarms (mean [SD], 106  hours) and those with both true and false alarms (mean [SD], 208  hours) than in other patients. Accelerated ventricular rhythm was the most common alarm type (37%).
An awareness of factors associated with arrhythmia alarms might aid in developing solutions to decrease alarm fatigue. To improve detection of true alarms, further research is needed to build and test electrocardiographic algorithms that adjust for clinical and electrocardiographic characteristics associated with false alarms.