Background: Chest pain is the second most common presenting complaint seen in the emergency department. Following evaluation in the emergency department, many of these patients are discharged with a diagnosis of nonspecific chest pain. Our hypothesis is that this group of patients has a high prevalence of ischaemic heart disease.
Methods: This was a prospective follow-up study of mortality in 786 patients who presented to an emergency department in the UK with an episode of nontraumatic chest pain and were discharged without further inpatient assessment. Observed mortality was compared with expected mortality in age-matched and sex-matched local population.
Results: The observed mortality of the study group was consistently higher than expected throughout the study period. The 5-year mortality rates for men and women under the age of 65 years were more than double the expected rates for the local population [relative risk of 2.1 (95% confidence interval: 1.4-2.8) and 2.6 (1.4-3.8), respectively]. This increase was less marked in male and female patients aged 65 years or more [relative risk of 1.2 (0.9-1.5) and 1.5 (1.2-1.8), respectively]. Ischaemic heart disease accounted for almost 50% of male deaths in the study group. This compared with an expected rate of less than 30% of male deaths in the local population. An excess of cardiac deaths was not seen in women.
Interpretation: Patients discharged from the emergency department following an episode of acute chest pain have significantly reduced 5-year survival. We conclude that further evaluation of this group to establish the prevalence of risk factors is important to support the strategic implementation of appropriate prevention programmes.