Stress cardiac magnetic resonance imaging with observation unit care reduces cost for patients with emergent chest pain: a randomized trial

Ann Emerg Med. 2010 Sep;56(3):209-219.e2. doi: 10.1016/j.annemergmed.2010.04.009. Epub 2010 May 31.


Study objective: We determine whether imaging with cardiac magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) in an observation unit would reduce medical costs among patients with emergent non-low-risk chest pain who otherwise would be managed with an inpatient care strategy.

Methods: Emergency department patients (n=110) at intermediate or high probability for acute coronary syndrome without electrocardiographic or biomarker evidence of a myocardial infarction provided consent and were randomized to stress cardiac MRI in an observation unit versus standard inpatient care. The primary outcome was direct hospital cost calculated as the sum of hospital and provider costs. Estimated median cost differences (Hodges-Lehmann) and distribution-free 95% confidence intervals (Moses) were used to compare groups.

Results: There were 110 participants with 53 randomized to cardiac MRI and 57 to inpatient care; 8 of 110 (7%) experienced acute coronary syndrome. In the MRI pathway, 49 of 53 underwent stress cardiac MRI, 11 of 53 were admitted, 1 left against medical advice, 41 were discharged, and 2 had acute coronary syndrome. In the inpatient care pathway, 39 of 57 patients initially received stress testing, 54 of 57 were admitted, 3 left against medical advice, and 6 had acute coronary syndrome. At 30 days, no subjects in either group experienced acute coronary syndrome after discharge. The cardiac MRI group had a reduced median hospitalization cost (Hodges-Lehmann estimate $588; 95% confidence interval $336 to $811); 79% were managed without hospital admission.

Conclusion: Compared with inpatient care, an observation unit strategy involving stress cardiac MRI reduced incident cost without any cases of missed acute coronary syndrome in patients with emergent chest pain.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acute Coronary Syndrome / diagnosis
  • Acute Coronary Syndrome / economics
  • Chest Pain / diagnosis
  • Chest Pain / economics*
  • Chest Pain / etiology
  • Costs and Cost Analysis
  • Electrocardiography
  • Emergency Service, Hospital / economics*
  • Exercise Test / economics
  • Female
  • Hospitalization / economics
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging* / economics
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Myocardial Infarction / diagnosis
  • Myocardial Infarction / economics
  • Outcome and Process Assessment, Health Care / economics