Characteristics and outcomes of young adults who present to the emergency department with chest pain

Acad Emerg Med. 2001 Jul;8(7):703-8. doi: 10.1111/j.1553-2712.2001.tb00188.x.


Background: Most studies of emergency department (ED) chest pain patients exclude patients <30-40 years old. As a result, the clinical course of these patients is poorly described.

Objective: To study the clinical characteristics, hospital course, and 30-day outcomes of ED chest pain patients <40 years old. The hypothesis was that patients <40 years old without a cardiac history and with normal electro-cardiograms (ECGs) or no cardiac risk factors would be at a <1% risk for acute coronary syndromes (ACSs) and 30-day adverse cardiovascular (CV) events.

Methods: This was a prospective cohort study of non-cocaine-using ED patients, 24-39 years old, who received an ECG for chest pain between July 9, 1999, and October 23, 2000. Structured data collection at presentation included demographics, chest pain description, history, laboratory, and ECG data. Hospital course was followed daily. Thirty-day follow-up was performed by telephone. The main outcomes were discharge diagnosis and 30-day adverse CV events [acute myocardial infarction (AMI), death, percutaneous intervention (PCI), or coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG)].

Results: A total of 487 patients presented 527 times and comprised the study group. Patients were most often 30-39 years old (71%), female (60%), and African-American (73%). Thirty-two percent were admitted. Five hundred seven of 527 patient visits (96%) had 30-day follow-up. Patients had the following cardiac risk factors: tobacco, 37%; hypertension, 22%; family history, 19%; diabetes mellitus, 6%; cholesterol, 6%; prior angina, 3%; known coronary artery disease, 3%; and prior AMI, 2%. Patients usually had unremarkable ECGs (61% normal, 98% nonischemic). Overall, 11 of 527 patients had adverse CV events (2.1%; 95% CI = 0.9% to 3.3%): 8 AMIs (1.5%), 4 deaths (0.8%), 5 PCIs (0.9%), and no CABG. Twenty-five patients had a final diagnosis of ACS (4.7%; 95% CI = 2.9% to 6.5%). The incidence of ACS in the 210 patients without a cardiac history and without cardiac risk factors was 0.5% (95% CI = 0% to 1.4%). At 30 days, none of these 210 patients had AMI, PCI, CABG, or death (0%, 95% CI = 0% to 1.4%). The incidence of ACS in the 312 patients with normal ECGs and a negative cardiac history was 0.3% (95% CI = 0% to 0.9%). At 30 days, there was no AMI, PCI, or CABG in these 312 patients, and one patient with metastatic cancer died (adverse CV event 0.3%, 95% CI = 0% to 0.9%).

Conclusions: Although young patients, as a whole, have a 4.7% risk of ACSs and a 2.1% risk of adverse CV events at 30 days, those without known cardiac disease or any cardiac risk factors had a <1% risk of ACSs and were free from adverse CV events over 30 days. Likewise, young patients without a cardiac history and with a normal ECG had a <1% risk of ACSs and adverse CV events at 30 days. It may be reasonable to expedite outpatient management and limit unnecessary admissions in these cohorts.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Distribution
  • Chest Pain / etiology*
  • Coronary Disease / complications
  • Coronary Disease / diagnosis*
  • Coronary Disease / epidemiology
  • Coronary Disease / therapy*
  • Diabetes Complications
  • Electrocardiography
  • Emergency Treatment / methods*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Hypercholesterolemia / complications
  • Hypertension / complications
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Medical History Taking
  • Patient Admission / statistics & numerical data
  • Prospective Studies
  • Recurrence
  • Risk Factors
  • Smoking / adverse effects
  • Treatment Outcome