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Clinical decision aids for chest pain in the emergency department: identifying low-risk patients

Authors Alley W, Mahler S

Received 18 June 2015

Accepted for publication 3 October 2015

Published 16 November 2015 Volume 2015:7 Pages 85—92


Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single anonymous peer review

Peer reviewer comments 2

Editor who approved publication: Dr Hans-Christoph Pape

William Alley, Simon A Mahler

Department of Emergency Medicine, Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, Winston-Salem, NC, USA

Abstract: Chest pain is one of the most common presenting complaints in the emergency department, though only a small minority of patients are subsequently diagnosed with acute coronary syndrome (ACS). However, missing the diagnosis has potential for significant morbidity and mortality. ACS presentations can be atypical, and their workups are often prolonged and costly. In order to risk-stratify patients and better direct the workup and care given, many decision aids have been developed. While each may have merit in certain clinical settings, the most useful aid in the emergency department is one that finds all cases of ACS while also identifying a substantial subset of patients at low risk who can be discharged without stress testing or coronary angiography. This review describes several of the chest pain decision aids developed and studied through the recent past, starting with the thrombolysis in myocardial infarction (TIMI) risk score and Global Registry of Acute Coronary Events (GRACE) scores, which were developed as prognostic aids for patients already diagnosed with ACS, then subsequently validated in the undifferentiated chest pain population. Asia-Pacific Evaluation of Chest Pain Trial (ASPECT); Accelerated Diagnostic Protocol to Assess Patients With Chest Pain Symptoms Using Contemporary Troponins (ADAPT); North American Chest Pain Rule (NACPR); and History, Electrocardiogram, Age, Risk factors, Troponin (HEART) score have been developed exclusively for use in the undifferentiated chest pain population as well, with improved performance compared to their predecessors. This review describes the relative merits and limitations of these decision aids so that providers can determine which tool fits the needs of their clinical practice setting.

Keywords: chest pain, decision aid, risk score, acute coronary syndrome

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