Management of Acute Coronary Syndromes in Patients in Rural Australia: The MORACS Randomized Clinical Trial

JAMA Cardiol. 2022 Jul 1;7(7):690-698. doi: 10.1001/jamacardio.2022.1188.


Importance: Treatment of ST-segment elevation myocardial infarction (STEMI) in rural settings involves thrombolysis followed by transfer to a percutaneous coronary intervention-capable hospital. The first step is accurate diagnosis via electrocardiography (ECG), but one-third of all STEMI incidents go unrecognized and hence untreated.

Objective: To reduce missed diagnoses of STEMI.

Design, setting, and participants: This cluster randomized clinical trial included 29 hospital emergency departments (EDs) in rural Australia with no emergency medicine specialists, which were randomized to usual care vs automatically triggered diagnostic support from the tertiary referral hospital (management of rural acute coronary syndromes [MORACS] intervention). Patients presenting with symptoms compatible with acute coronary syndromes (ACS) were eligible for inclusion. The study was conducted from December 2018 to April 2020. Data were analyzed in August 2021.

Intervention: Triage of a patient with symptoms compatible with ACS triggered an automated notification to the tertiary hospital coronary care unit. The ECG and point-of-care troponin results were reviewed remotely and a phone call was made to the treating physician in the rural hospital to assist with diagnosis and initiation of treatment.

Main outcomes and measures: The proportion of patients with missed STEMI diagnoses.

Results: A total of 6249 patients were included in the study (mean [SD] age, 63.6 [12.2] years; 48% female). Of 7474 ED presentations with suspected ACS, STEMI accounted for 77 (2.0%) in usual care hospitals and 46 (1.3%) in MORACS hospitals. Missed diagnosis of STEMI occurred in 27 of 77 presentations (35%) in usual care hospitals and 0 of 46 (0%) in MORACS hospitals (P < .001). Of eligible patients, 48 of 75 (64%) in the usual care group and 36 of 36 (100%) in the MORACS group received primary reperfusion (P < .001). In the usual care group, 12-month mortality was 10.3% (n = 8) vs 6.5% (n = 3) in the MORACS group (relative risk, 0.64; 95% CI, 0.18-2.23). Patients with missed STEMI diagnoses had a mortality of 25.9% (n = 7) compared with 2.0% (n = 1) for those with accurately diagnosed STEMI (relative risk, 13.2; 95% CI, 1.71-102.00; P = .001). Overall, there were 6 patients who did not have STEMI as a final diagnosis; 5 had takotsubo cardiomyopathy and 1 had pericarditis. There was no difference between groups in the rate of alternative final diagnosis.

Conclusion and relevance: The findings indicate that MORACS diagnostic support service reduced the proportion of missed STEMI and improved the rates of primary reperfusion therapy. Accurate diagnosis of STEMI was associated with lower mortality.

Trial registration: Identifier: ACTRN12619000533190.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Acute Coronary Syndrome* / drug therapy
  • Acute Coronary Syndrome* / therapy
  • Electrocardiography
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Percutaneous Coronary Intervention*
  • ST Elevation Myocardial Infarction* / diagnosis
  • ST Elevation Myocardial Infarction* / therapy
  • Time Factors

Associated data

  • ANZCTR/ACTRN12619000533190