Feasibility of a rapid diagnostic protocol for an emergency department chest pain unit

R. J. Zalenski*, R. J. Rydman, M. McCarren, R. R. Roberts, B. Jovanovic, K. Das, E. K. Mensah, L. M. Kampe

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

63 Scopus citations


Study objective: To evaluate the applicability of a short-stay protocol for exclusion of acute ischemic heart disease without hospital admission and to analyze these results in the context of a conceptual model. Methods: An observational study of patients who presented with chest pain to the emergency department of an 886-bed inner-city municipal hospital and who needed hospital admission to rule out acute myocardial infarction (AMI). Patients were assessed by ED attending physicians to determine eligibility for an alternative, 12-hour protocol in an ED chest pain observation unit (CPOU) followed by immediate exercise testing. Outcome measures were proportion of patients eligible for the short-stay protocol, risk factor profile, and reasons for exclusion. Results: Of 500 patients screened, 446 had sufficient data points to determine protocol eligibility. Of these, 238 (53.3%; 95% confidence interval [CI], 48.7% to 57.9%) were found to have low probability for AMI. After study exclusion criteria were applied to the patient cohort, 63 patients (14.1%; 95% CI, 10.9% to 17.3%) were eligible for the protocol. The most common reasons for exclusion were history of coronary artery disease (46%) and inability to perform an interpretable exercise tolerance test (42%). Conclusion: Although most admitted patients with chest pain (53%) were at low probability for AMI, only a minority (14%) were eligible for a short-stay protocol that required patients to be free of known coronary artery disease and able to perform an exercise tolerance test. Factors affecting the operations and efficiency of a CPOU include clinical characteristics of the target patient population, protocol tests used, and hospital occupancy and reimbursement patterns.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)99-108
Number of pages10
JournalAnnals of Emergency Medicine
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1997

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Emergency Medicine


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