Value of definitive diagnostic testing in the evaluation of patients presenting to the emergency department with chest pain


      The optimal diagnostic evaluation of patients presenting to the emergency department (ED) with chest pain but without myocardial infarction or unstable angina is controversial. We performed a prospective, nonrandomized, observational study of 1,195 consecutive patients presenting to the ED with chest pain but who had normal or nondiagnostic electrocardiograms and negative cardiac biomarkers. Patients (mean ± SD age 61 ± 15 years; 55% women) were admitted to the hospital and a standard protocol for evaluation and treatment was suggested. The use of stress myocardial perfusion imaging (MPI) or cardiac catheterization during their index hospitalization, and the 3-month incidence of coronary angiography, percutaneous cardiac intervention, coronary artery bypass surgery, re-presentation to our institution’s ED for chest pain, myocardial infarction, or death were followed. Five hundred nine of 1,195 patients (43%) underwent provocative stress MPI during their index hospitalization; 37% had perfusion defects (predominantly ischemia). Fifty-six of 1,195 patients (4%) underwent cardiac catheterization without stress MPI for their primary diagnostic evaluation. Six hundred thirty of 1,195 patients (53%) had neither MPI or cardiac catheterization during their index hospitalization. During the 3-month follow-up period, patients with a normal stress perfusion study during their index hospitalization had fewer return visits (4%) compared with patients with abnormal perfusion studies (19%), those who underwent catheterization directly (16%), or patients with no initial diagnostic evaluation (15%) (p <0.001). In addition, patients who had a diagnostic evaluation during their index hospitalization had a lower incidence of either acute myocardial infarction (0.9% vs 2.1%) or death (0.4% vs 3.0%, p <0.001) in the 3-month follow-up period. Accordingly, we strongly advocate provocative stress MPI early after presentation for chest pain in all patients with risk factors for coronary artery disease.
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