Risk for Clinically Relevant Adverse Cardiac Events in Patients With Chest Pain at Hospital Admission

JAMA Intern Med. 2015 Jul;175(7):1207-12. doi: 10.1001/jamainternmed.2015.1674.


Importance: Patients with potentially ischemic chest pain are commonly admitted to the hospital or observed after a negative evaluation in the emergency department (ED) owing to concern about adverse events. Previous studies have looked at 30-day mortality, but no current large studies have examined the most important information regarding ED disposition: the short-term risk for a clinically relevant adverse cardiac event (including inpatient ST-segment elevation myocardial infarction, life-threatening arrhythmia, cardiac or respiratory arrest, or death).

Objective: To determine the incidence of clinically relevant adverse cardiac events in patients hospitalized for chest pain with 2 troponin-negative findings, nonconcerning initial ED vital signs, and nonischemic, interpretable electrocardiographic findings.

Design, setting, and participants: We conducted a blinded data review of 45,416 encounters obtained from a prospectively collected database enrolling adult patients admitted or observed with the following inclusion criteria: (1) primary presenting symptom of chest pain, chest tightness, chest burning, or chest pressure and (2) negative findings for serial biomarkers. Data were collected and analyzed from July 1, 2008, through June 30, 2013, from the EDs of 3 community teaching institutions with an aggregate census of more than 1 million visits. We analyzed data extracted by hypothesis-blinded abstractors.

Main outcomes and measures: The primary outcome was a composite of life-threatening arrhythmia, inpatient ST-segment elevation myocardial infarction, cardiac or respiratory arrest, or death during hospitalization.

Results: Of the 45,416 encounters, 11,230 met criteria for inclusion. Mean patient age was 58.0 years. Of the 11 230 encounters, 44.83% of patients arrived by ambulance and 55.00% of patients were women. Relevant history included hypertension in 46.00%, diabetes mellitus in 19.72%, and myocardial infarction in 13.16%. The primary end point occurred in 20 of the 11 230 patients (0.18% [95% CI, 0.11%-0.27%]). After excluding patients with abnormal vital signs, electrocardiographic ischemia, left bundle branch block, or a pacemaker rhythm, we identified a primary end point event in 4 of 7266 patients (0.06% [95% CI, 0.02%-0.14%]). Of these events, 2 were noncardiac and 2 were possibly iatrogenic.

Conclusions and relevance: In adult patients with chest pain admitted with 2 negative findings for serial biomarkers, nonconcerning vital signs, and nonischemic electrocardiographic findings, short-term clinically relevant adverse cardiac events were rare and commonly iatrogenic, suggesting that routine inpatient admission may not be a beneficial strategy for this group.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Multicenter Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Biomarkers / blood
  • Chest Pain / blood
  • Chest Pain / diagnosis*
  • Echocardiography
  • Emergencies / epidemiology*
  • Emergency Service, Hospital / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Heart Diseases / blood
  • Heart Diseases / diagnosis
  • Heart Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Midwestern United States / epidemiology
  • Patient Admission
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Troponin / blood*


  • Biomarkers
  • Troponin