Acute myocardial infarction in chest pain patients with nondiagnostic ECGs: serial CK-MB sampling in the emergency department. The Emergency Medicine Cardiac Research Group

Ann Emerg Med. 1992 May;21(5):504-12. doi: 10.1016/s0196-0644(05)82515-6.


Study objectives: This study tested the hypothesis that serial creatine phosphokinase (CK)-MB sampling in the emergency department can identify acute myocardial infarction (AMI) in patients presenting to the ED with chest pain and nondiagnostic ECGs.

Design: Patients more than 30 years old who were evaluated initially in the ED and hospitalized for chest pain were studied. Serial CK-MB levels were analyzed prospectively using a rapid serum immunochemical assay for identification of AMI patients in the ED. Presenting ECGs showing new, greater than 1-mm ST elevation in two or more contiguous leads were considered diagnostic for AMI. All other ECGs were considered nondiagnostic ECGs. CK-MB levels were determined at ED presentation and hourly for three hours (total of four levels). Patients with at least one level of more than 7 ng/mL were considered to have a positive enzyme study. The in-hospital diagnosis of AMI was determined by the development of typical serial ECG changes or separate standard cardiac enzyme changes after admission.

Setting: Eight tertiary-care medical center hospitals.

Methods and main results: Of the 616 study patients, 108 (17.5%) were diagnosed in the hospital as AMI; 69 of these AMI patients (63.9%) had nondiagnostic ECGs in the ED. Of the patients with nondiagnostic ECGs, 55 (sensitivity, 79.7%) had a positive ED serial CK-MB enzyme study within three hours after presentation. Combining serial ED CK-MB assay results with diagnostic ECGs yielded an 88.4% sensitivity for AMI detection within three hours of ED presentation. The predictive value of a negative serial ED enzyme study for no AMI was 96.2% (specificity, 93.7%).

Conclusion: Serial CK-MB determination in the ED can help identify AMI patients with initial nondiagnostic ECGs. Use of serial CK-MB analysis may facilitate optimal in-hospital disposition and help guide therapeutic interventions in patients with suspected AMI despite a nondiagnostic ECG.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Chest Pain / etiology*
  • Creatine Kinase / blood*
  • Electrocardiography*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Isoenzymes
  • Male
  • Myocardial Infarction / diagnosis*
  • Myocardial Infarction / enzymology
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • ROC Curve
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Sensitivity and Specificity


  • Isoenzymes
  • Creatine Kinase