Objectives: This randomized trial compared a strategy of predischarge coronary angiography (CA) with exercise treadmill testing (ETT) in low-risk patients in the chest pain unit (CPU) to reduce repeat emergency department (ED) visits and to identify additional coronary artery disease (CAD).
Background: Patients with chest pain and normal electrocardiograms (ECGs) have a low likelihood of CAD and a favorable prognosis, but they often seek repeat evaluations in EDs. Remaining uncertainty regarding their symptoms and diagnosis may cause much of this recidivism.
Methods: A total of 248 patients with no ischemic ECG changes triaged to a CPU were randomized to CA (n = 123) or ETT (n = 125). All patients had a probability of myocardial infarction < or =7% according to the Goldman algorithm, no biochemical evidence of infarction, the ability to exercise and no previous documented CAD. Patients were followed up for > or =1 year and surveyed regarding their chest pain self-perception and utility of the index evaluation.
Results: Coronary angiography showed disease (> or =50% stenosis) in 19% and ETT was positive in 7% of the patients (p = 0.01). During follow-up (374+/-61 days), patients with a negative CA had fewer returns to the ED (10% vs. 30%, p = 0.0008) and hospital admissions (3% vs. 16%, p = 0.003), compared with patients with a negative/nondiagnostic ETT. The latter group was more likely to consider their pain as cardiac-related (15% vs. 7%), to be unsure about its etiology (38% vs. 26%) and to judge their evaluation as not useful (39% vs. 15%) (p < 0.01 for all comparisons).
Conclusions: In low-risk patients in the CPU, a strategy of CA detects more CAD than ETT, reduces long-term ED and hospital utilization and yields better patient satisfaction and understanding of their condition.