Emergency department triage strategies for acute chest pain using creatine kinase-MB and troponin I assays: a cost-effectiveness analysis

Ann Intern Med. 1999 Dec 21;131(12):909-18. doi: 10.7326/0003-4819-131-12-199912210-00002.


Background: Evaluation of acute chest pain is highly variable.

Objective: To evaluate the cost-effectiveness of strategies using cardiac markers and noninvasive tests for myocardial ischemia.

Design: Cost-effectiveness analysis.

Data sources: Prospective data from 1066 patients with chest pain and from the published literature.

Target population: Patients admitted with acute chest pain.

Time horizon: Lifetime.

Perspective: Societal.

Interventions: Creatine kinase (CK)-MB mass assay alone; CK-MB mass assay followed by cardiac troponin I assay if the CK-MB value is normal; CK-MB mass assay followed by troponin I assay if the CK-MB value is normal and electrocardiography shows ischemic changes; both CK-MB mass and troponin I assays; and troponin I assay alone. These strategies were evaluated alone or in combination with early exercise testing.

Outcome measures: Lifetime cost, life expectancy (in years), and incremental cost-effectiveness.

Results of base-case analysis: For patients 55 to 64 years of age, measurement of CK-MB mass followed by exercise testing in appropriate patients was the most competitive strategy ($43000 per year of life saved). Measurement of CK-MB mass followed by troponin I measurement had an incremental cost-effectiveness ratio of $47400 per year of life saved for patients 65 to 74 years of age; it was also the most cost-effective strategy when early exercise testing could not be performed, CK-MB values were normal, and ischemic changes were seen on electrocardiography.

Results of sensitivity analysis: Results were influenced by age, probability of myocardial infarction, and medical costs.

Conclusions: Measurement of CK-MB mass plus early exercise testing is a cost-effective initial strategy for younger patients and those with a low to moderate probability of myocardial infarction. Troponin I measurement can be a cost-effective second test in higher-risk subsets of patients if the CK-MB level is normal and early exercise testing is not an option.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Biomarkers / analysis
  • Chest Pain / etiology*
  • Cost-Benefit Analysis
  • Creatine Kinase / analysis*
  • Decision Support Techniques
  • Electrocardiography
  • Emergency Service, Hospital / economics*
  • Exercise Test
  • Hospitalization
  • Humans
  • Isoenzymes
  • Middle Aged
  • Myocardial Ischemia / diagnosis*
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Triage / economics*
  • Troponin I / analysis*


  • Biomarkers
  • Isoenzymes
  • Troponin I
  • Creatine Kinase