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Am Heart J. 2002 Oct;144(4):630-5.

Effectiveness of a multidisciplinary chest pain unit for the assessment of coronary syndromes and risk stratification in the Florence area.

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  • 1Emergency Department and Chest Pain Unit, Careggi General Hospital, Florence, Italy.



In patients seen at the emergency department (ED) with chest pain (CP), noninvasive diagnostic strategies may differentiate patients at high or intermediate risk from those at low-risk for cardiovascular events and optimize the use of high-cost resources. However, in welfare healthcare systems, the feasibility, accuracy, and potential benefits of such management strategy need further investigation.


A total of 13,762 consecutive patients with CP were screened, and their conditions were defined as high, intermediate, and low risk for short-term cardiovascular events. Patients at high and intermediate risk were admitted. Patients at low risk were discharged from the ED if first line (<6 hours, including electrocardiogram, troponins, and serum cardiac markers) or second line short-term evaluation (<24 hours, including echocardiogram, rest or stress 99m-Tc myocardial scintigraphy, exercise tolerance test, or stress-echocardiography) had negative results. Patients with a diagnosis of coronary artery disease (CAD) were admitted. Patients without evidence of cardiovascular disease underwent screening for psychiatric and gastroesophageal disorders. Inhospital mortality rate was assessed in all patients.


Among patients at high and intermediate risk (n = 9335), 2420 patients had acute myocardial infarction (26%, 10.6% mortality rate), 3764 had unstable angina (40%, 1.1% mortality rate), 129 had aortic dissection (1.4%, 23.3% mortality rate), and 408 had pulmonary embolism (4%, 27.6% mortality rate). The remaining 2614 had chronic coronary heart disease in the context of multiple pathology (n = 2256) or pleural or pericardial diseases (n = 358). Among patients at low risk (n = 4427), 2672 were discharged at <6 hours (60%, 0.2% incidence rate of nonfatal CAD at 6 months) and 870 patients were discharged at <24 hours (20%, no CAD at follow-up). The remaining 885 patients were recognized as having CAD (20%, 1.1% inhospital mortality rate). Finally, half of the patients without CAD had active gastroesophageal or anxiety disorders.


An effective screening program with an observation area inside the ED (1) could be implemented in a public healthcare environment and contribute significantly to the reduction of admissions, (2) could optimize the management of patients at high and intermediate risk and succeed in recognizing CAD in 20% of patients at low risk, and (3) could allow screening for alternative causes of CP in patients without evidence of CAD.

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