Study: Most Chest Pain ED Visits Are Not Life Threatening

July 19, 2016
Medicare Web

The majority of patients who visit hospital emergency departments (ED) for chest pain do not have a life-threatening condition, according to a recent study in JAMA Internal Medicine.

Just 5.5% of patient visits with a primary complaint of chest pain examined in the study resulted in a serious diagnosis. The study looked at approximately 11,000 records—or 42 million patient visits—from January 1, 2005, through December 31, 2011.

Chest pain is the second most common cause of ED visits among adults and because it is often linked with life-threatening conditions (e.g., acute coronary artery syndrome, pulmonary embolism), physicians tend to assume that such conditions are more common in ED patients with chest pain complaints. However, in light of the study, researchers are recommending that patients who are at a low risk for these conditions may not need to undergo significant diagnostic testing. Instead, physicians should evaluate pre-test probabilities and determine whether there is a need for additional testing so patients do not undergo unnecessary testing, according to an announcement about the study.

The most common diagnosis uncovered in the study was nonspecific chest pain (51.7%). Instances of a serious diagnosis related to chest pain symptoms increase with age.

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