The Erlanger chest pain evaluation protocol: a one-year experience with serial 12-lead ECG monitoring, two-hour delta serum marker measurements, and selective nuclear stress testing to identify and exclude acute coronary syndromes

Ann Emerg Med. 2002 Dec;40(6):584-94. doi: 10.1067/mem.2002.129506.


Study objective: We determine the overall use of a 6-step accelerated chest pain protocol to identify and exclude acute coronary syndrome (ACS) and to confirm previous findings of the use of serial 12-lead ECG monitoring (SECG) in conjunction with 2-hour delta serum marker measurements to identify and exclude acute myocardial infarction (AMI).

Methods: A prospective observational study was conducted over a 1-year period from January 1, 1999, through December 31, 1999, in 2,074 consecutive patients with chest pain who underwent our accelerated evaluation protocol, which includes 2-hour delta serum marker determinations in conjunction with automated SECG for the early identification and exclusion of AMI and selective nuclear stress testing for identification and exclusion of ACS. In patients not undergoing emergency reperfusion therapy, physician judgment was used to determine patient disposition at the completion of the 2-hour evaluation period: admit for ACS, discharge or admit for non-ACS condition, or immediate emergency department nuclear stress scan for possible ACS. A positive protocol was defined as a positive result in 1 or more of the 6 incremental steps in our chest pain evaluation protocol: (1) initial ECG diagnostic of acute injury or reciprocal injury; (2) baseline creatine kinase (CK)-MB level of 10 ng/mL or greater and index of 5% or greater or cardiac troponin I level of 2 ng/mL or greater; (3) new/evolving injury or new/evolving ischemia on SECG; (4) increase in CK-MB level of +1.5 ng/mL or greater or cardiac troponin I level of +0.2 ng/mL or greater in 2 hours; (5) clinical diagnosis of ACS despite a negative 2-hour evaluation; and (6) reversible perfusion defect on stress scan compared with on resting scan. All patients were followed up for 30-day ACS, which was defined as myocardial infarction (MI), percutaneous coronary intervention/coronary artery bypass grafting, coronary arteriography revealing stenosis of major coronary artery of 70% or greater not amenable to percutaneous coronary intervention/coronary artery bypass grafting, life-threatening complication, or cardiac death within 30 days of ED presentation.

Results: Discharge diagnosis in the 2,074 study patients consisted of 179 (8.6%) patients with AMI, 26 (1.3%) patients with recent AMI (decreasing curve of CK-MB), and 327 (15.8%) patients with 30-day ACS. At 2 hours, sensitivity and specificity for MI (AMI or recent AMI) of SECG plus delta serum marker measurements was 93.2% and 93.9%, respectively (positive likelihood ratio 15.3; negative likelihood ratio 0.07). At the completion of the full ED evaluation protocol (positive result in >or=1 of the 6 incremental steps), sensitivity and specificity for 30-day ACS was 99.1% and 87.4%, respectively (positive likelihood ratio 7.9; negative likelihood ratio 0.01).

Conclusion: An accelerated chest pain evaluation strategy consisting of SECG, 2-hour delta serum marker measurements, and selective nuclear stress testing in conjunction with physician judgment identifies and excludes MI and 30-day ACS during the initial evaluation of patients with chest pain.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Chest Pain / blood
  • Chest Pain / diagnosis*
  • Coronary Disease / blood
  • Coronary Disease / diagnosis*
  • Creatine Kinase / blood
  • Creatine Kinase, MB Form
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Electrocardiography / methods*
  • Emergency Service, Hospital / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Isoenzymes / blood
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Myocardial Infarction / blood
  • Myocardial Infarction / diagnosis*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Tennessee


  • Isoenzymes
  • Creatine Kinase
  • Creatine Kinase, MB Form