Use of Electron-Beam Computed Tomography in the Evaluation of Chest Pain Patients in the Emergency Department

Ann Emerg Med. 1999 Jan;33(1):15-21. doi: 10.1016/s0196-0644(99)70412-9.


Study objective: We sought to determine whether electron-beam computed tomography (EBCT) could be used as a triage tool in the emergency department for patients with angina-like chest pain, no known history of coronary disease, normal or indeterminate ECG findings, and normal initial cardiac enzyme concentrations.

Methods: We conducted a prospective observational study of 105 patients admitted between December 1995 and October 1997 to the ED of a large tertiary care hospital with 70,000 annual ED visits. The study group was comprised of women aged 40 to 65 years and men aged 30 to 55 years who presented with angina-like chest pain requiring admission to the hospital or chest pain observation unit. All patients underwent EBCT of the coronary arteries, along with other cardiac testing as deemed necessary by staff physicians.

Results: Of the 105 patients, 100 underwent other cardiac testing during hospitalization. Evaluation included treadmill exercise testing in 58, coronary angiography in 25, radionuclide stress testing in 19, and echocardiography in 11. Results of EBCT and cardiac testing were negative for both in 53 patients (53%), positive for both in 14 (14%), positive for tomography and negative for cardiac testing in 32 (32%), and negative for tomography and positive for cardiac testing in only 1 patient. This positive test result, on a treadmill exercise test, was ruled a false positive by an independent staff cardiologist. Two other female patients with normal exercise sestamibi or coronary angiography and EBCT findings also had false-positive treadmill exercise results. The sensitivity of EBCT was 100% (95% confidence interval, 77% to 100%), with a negative predictive value of 100% (95% confidence interval, 94% to 100%). Specificity was 63% (95% confidence interval, 54% to 75%).

Conclusion: EBCT is a rapid and efficient screening tool for patients admitted to the ED with angina-like chest pain, normal cardiac enzyme concentrations, indeterminate ECG findings, and no history of coronary artery disease. Our study suggests that patients with normal initial cardiac enzyme concentrations, normal or indeterminate ECG findings, and negative results on EBCT may be safely discharged from the ED without further testing or observation. Larger studies are required to confirm this conclusion.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Angina Pectoris / diagnostic imaging*
  • Chest Pain / etiology*
  • Coronary Angiography
  • Echocardiography
  • Emergency Treatment* / methods
  • Exercise Test
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Prospective Studies
  • Radionuclide Imaging
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed*