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Which diagnostic tests are most useful in a chest pain unit protocol?

Goodacre, S., Locker, T., Arnold, J., Angelini, K. and Morris, F. (2005) Which diagnostic tests are most useful in a chest pain unit protocol? BMC Emergency Medicine, 5 (6). ISSN 1471-227X

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Abstract

Background

The chest pain unit (CPU) provides rapid diagnostic assessment for patients with acute, undifferentiated chest pain, using a combination of electrocardiographic (ECG) recording, biochemical markers and provocative cardiac testing. We aimed to identify which elements of a CPU protocol were most diagnostically and prognostically useful.

Methods

The Northern General Hospital CPU uses 2–6 hours of serial ECG / ST segment monitoring, CK-MB(mass) on arrival and at least two hours later, troponin T at least six hours after worst pain and exercise treadmill testing. Data were prospectively collected over an eighteen-month period from patients managed on the CPU. Patients discharged after CPU assessment were invited to attend a follow-up appointment 72 hours later for ECG and troponin T measurement. Hospital records of all patients were reviewed to identify adverse cardiac events over the subsequent six months. Diagnostic accuracy of each test was estimated by calculating sensitivity and specificity for: 1) acute coronary syndrome (ACS) with clinical myocardial infarction and 2) ACS with myocyte necrosis. Prognostic value was estimated by calculating the relative risk of an adverse cardiac event following a positive result.

Results

Of the 706 patients, 30 (4.2%) were diagnosed as ACS with myocardial infarction, 30 (4.2%) as ACS with myocyte necrosis, and 32 (4.5%) suffered an adverse cardiac event. Sensitivities for ACS with myocardial infarction and myocyte necrosis respectively were: serial ECG / ST segment monitoring 33% and 23%; CK-MB(mass) 96% and 63%; troponin T (using 0.03 ng/ml threshold) 96% and 90%. The only test that added useful prognostic information was exercise treadmill testing (relative risk 6 for cardiac death, non-fatal myocardial infarction or arrhythmia over six months).

Conclusion

Serial ECG / ST monitoring, as used in our protocol, adds little diagnostic or prognostic value in patients with a normal or non-diagnostic initial ECG. CK-MB(mass) can rule out ACS with clinical myocardial infarction but not myocyte necrosis(defined as a troponin elevation without myocardial infarction). Using a low threshold for positivity for troponin T improves sensitivity of this test for myocardial infarction and myocardial necrosis. Exercise treadmill testing predicts subsequent adverse cardiac events.

Item Type: Article
Copyright, Publisher and Additional Information: © 2005 Goodacre et al; licensee BioMed Central Ltd. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Academic Units: The University of Sheffield > Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health (Sheffield) > School of Health and Related Research (Sheffield) > Health Services Research (Sheffield)
Depositing User: Repository Officer
Date Deposited: 15 Mar 2006
Last Modified: 08 Feb 2013 16:49
Published Version: http://www.biomedcentral.com/1471-227X/5/6
Status: Published
Refereed: Yes
Identification Number: 10.1186/1471-227X-5-6
URI: http://eprints.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/1085

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