For emergency room patients with a low probability of acute myocardial infarction, we established a new short-stay coronary observation unit, a 2-bed nonintensive care unit with telemetry monitoring adjacent to the emergency room. Of 512 consecutive admissions to the coronary observation unit, 425 (83%) were discharged home without evidence of acute myocardial infarction or serious complications (mean length of stay, 1.2 days; median length of stay, 1 day); 87 (17%) were transferred to other hospital beds. The rate of acute myocardial infarction was 3%. No deaths and only 1 serious complication occurred in the coronary observation unit. At 6 month follow-up, the cardiac survival rate was 99% for patients sent home directly from this unit. It is concluded that the coronary observation unit is safe and adequate for ruling out acute myocardial infarction in a defined subset of patients. Short-stay units, however, encourage early discharges which, when premature, may miss patients who are at risk of having complications shortly thereafter. Strategies such as mandatory but expeditious predischarge stress testing to encourage early but not premature discharge may augment the efficiency of coronary observation units.