Objective: To compare exercise electrocardiography (ExECG) and stress echocardiography (SE) in the risk stratification of patients presenting to hospital with cardiac-sounding chest pain, non-diagnostic ECGs and negative cardiac Troponin.
Methods: Patients presenting with acute chest pain were prospectively randomised to early ExECG or SE. A post-test likelihood of CAD was determined by the pre-test likelihood and the result of the stress test. Patients with a low post-test likelihood of CAD were discharged; those with a high post-test probability were considered for coronary angiography. All others were managed according to standard hospital protocols.
Results: A total of 302 patients underwent either ExECG or SE. SE identified significantly more patients with a low post-test probability of CAD (80% vs 31%, p<0.0001) and significantly fewer patients with an intermediate post-test likelihood of CAD compared to ExECG (3% vs 47%; p<0.0001). Significantly fewer patients undergoing SE were referred for further tests to exclude or refute the diagnosis of CAD (16% vs 52%; p<0.0001). In total, 36 (12%) had flow limiting CAD demonstrated by coronary angiography. Significant CAD was seen in fewer patients with a positive ExECG than with a positive SE (56% vs 84% (p=0.12)). Event rates were low for both modalities in patients with low post-test probability (3.5% for SE vs 5.1% for ExECG; p=ns) though the number of patients identified as low risk was higher if SE was performed.
Conclusion: Despite negative cardiac Troponin, 12% of patients with acute chest pain had significant CAD. SE is superior to ExECG in discriminating between those patients with a low and intermediate risk of CAD and correctly identified patients with significant CAD, as well as conferring an excellent prognosis in those considered low risk. SE significantly reduces the requirement for further tests to diagnose CAD compared to ExECG.