Purpose: To determine which clinical characteristics obtained by a physician during an initial clinical examination are important for estimating the likelihood of severe coronary artery disease, and to determine whether estimates based on these characteristics remain valid when applied prospectively and in different patient groups.
Patients and methods: We examined clinical characteristics predictive of severe disease in 6,435 consecutive symptomatic patients referred for suspected coronary artery disease between 1969 and 1983.
Results: Eleven of 23 characteristics were important for estimating the likelihood of severe coronary artery disease. A model using these characteristics accurately estimated the likelihood of severe disease in an independent sample of 2,342 patients referred since 1983. The model also accurately estimated the prevalence of severe disease in large series of patients reported in the literature.
Conclusions: These findings suggest that the clinician's initial evaluation can identify patients at high or low risk of anatomically severe coronary artery disease. Cost-conscious quality care is encouraged by identifying patients at higher risk for severe coronary artery disease who are most likely to benefit from further evaluation.