Short-term risk after initial observation for chest pain

J Emerg Med. 2003 Nov;25(4):357-62. doi: 10.1016/s0736-4679(03)00238-5.


Few studies have evaluated the necessity of immediate stress testing after observation for chest pain. The purpose of this study was to assess the safety of outpatient stress testing after discharge from a chest pain unit. We hypothesized that discharge from a chest pain unit before stress testing is associated with a low rate of short-term adverse outcomes. This was a retrospective chart review of managed care patients discharged from the chest pain unit before the performance of stress testing. Records were reviewed for the occurrence of adverse cardiac outcomes before an outpatient stress test up to 60 days post-discharge. Primary outcomes were defined as death or myocardial infarction, and secondary outcomes as readmission for chest pain evaluation, unstable angina, or congestive heart failure. Three hundred forty-four patients were identified. One hundred sixty-six patients had either a recent prior stress test (17) or an outpatient test (149) performed within 60 days of discharge. During that time, 2 patients (0.6%) had a fatal out-of-hospital cardiac event, and there were 27 subsequent chest pain visits to the Emergency Department by 24 patients (7.0%). Nine patients (2.6%) were admitted to the hospital and 10 (2.9%) were readmitted to the observation unit for chest pain. We conclude that patients who have negative serial electrocardiograms and enzyme testing in a chest pain unit are at low risk for short-term cardiac events. Appropriately selected patients may be discharged for subsequent outpatient testing.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Angina, Unstable / diagnosis*
  • Chest Pain / etiology*
  • Chest Pain / mortality
  • Electrocardiography
  • Emergency Service, Hospital
  • Exercise Test*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Myocardial Infarction / diagnosis*
  • Myocardial Infarction / epidemiology
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk