Ninety-minute accelerated critical pathway for chest pain evaluation

Am J Cardiol. 2001 Sep 15;88(6):611-7. doi: 10.1016/s0002-9149(01)01801-x.


Rapid, efficient, and accurate evaluation of chest pain patients in the emergency department optimizes patient care from public health, economic, and liability perspectives. To evaluate the performance of an accelerated critical pathway for patients with suspected coronary ischemia that utilizes clinical history, electrocardiographic findings, and triple cardiac marker testing (cardiac troponin I [cTnI], myoglobin, and creatine kinase-MB [CK-MB]), we performed an observational study of a chest pain critical pathway in the setting of a large Emergency Department at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in 1,285 consecutive patients with signs and symptoms of cardiac ischemia. The accelerated critical pathway for chest pain evaluation was analyzed for: (1) accuracy in triaging of patients within 90 minutes of presentation, (2) sensitivity, specificity, positive predictive value, and negative predictive value of cTnI, myoglobin, and CK-MB in diagnosing acute myocardial infarction (MI) within 90 minutes, and (3) impact on Coronary Care Unit (CCU) admissions. All MIs were diagnosed within 90 minutes of presentation (sensitivity 100%, specificity 94%, positive predictive value 47%, negative predictive value 100%). CCU admissions decreased by 40%. Ninety percent of patients with negative cardiac markers and a negative electrocardiogram at 90 minutes were discharged home with 1 patient returning with an MI (0.2%) within the next 30 days. Thus, a simple, inexpensive, yet aggressive critical pathway that utilizes high-risk features from clinical history, electrocardiographic changes, and rapid point-of-care testing of 3 cardiac markers allows for accurate triaging of chest pain patients within 90 minutes of presenting to the emergency department.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Angina Pectoris / etiology*
  • California
  • Clinical Competence*
  • Creatine Kinase / blood
  • Creatine Kinase, MB Form
  • Critical Pathways*
  • Electrocardiography
  • Emergency Service, Hospital / standards*
  • Female
  • Hospitalization / statistics & numerical data*
  • Hospitals, Veterans
  • Humans
  • Inservice Training / standards
  • Isoenzymes / blood
  • Male
  • Medical Staff, Hospital
  • Middle Aged
  • Myocardial Infarction / complications
  • Myocardial Infarction / diagnosis*
  • Myoglobin / blood
  • Point-of-Care Systems / standards
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Time Factors
  • Troponin I / blood


  • Isoenzymes
  • Myoglobin
  • Troponin I
  • Creatine Kinase
  • Creatine Kinase, MB Form