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J Thromb Thrombolysis. 1998 Jul;6(1):63-74.

Clinical Features of Emergency Department Patients Presenting with Symptoms Suggestive of Acute Cardiac Ischemia: A Multicenter Study.

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Center for Cardiovascular Health Services Research, Division of Clinical Care Research, Department of Medicine, New England Medical Center and Baystate Medical Center, Tufts University School of Medicine, Boston, Massachusetts.


Identification of patients with acute cardiac ischemia (ACI) remains challenging. The object of this study was to examine the role of clinical findings in the diagnosis/triage of emergency department (ED) patients with symptoms suggestive of ACI. The study was designed as a secondary data analysis of a multicenter prospective controlled clinical trial. It was set in 10 midwest, southeast, and northeast U.S. hospitals, and 10,689 patients with chest pain or other symptoms suggesting ACI presenting from May 1993 to December 1993, participated. The results indicated that ACI patients were more likely to have chest pain as a chief complaint or presenting symptom (P = 0.001). The presenting symptom of nausea was more commonly associated with a final diagnosis of ACI (P = 0.003). Shortness of breath as the chief complaint and presenting symptoms of abdominal pain, nausea, dizziness, and fainting were less frequent among patients with a final diagnosis of ACI (P = 0.001). A past history of diabetes mellitus, myocardial infarction, or angina pectoris was more frequently associated with a final diagnosis of ACI (P = 0.001). A lower pulse rate in patients with a final diagnosis of ACI (P = 0.001) was not considered clinically significant. Median first and highest systolic blood pressures (SBPs) were higher, median lowest SBPs were lower, median diastolic blood pressure of the lowest SBPs were lower, and initial and highest pulse pressures were wider in patients with a final diagnosis of ACl (P = 0.001). On arrival, these blood pressure variables in AMI patients, subsequently classified as Killip class 4, were above the threshold for this classification. Rales were more commonly present in patients with a final diagnosis of ACI (P = 0.001). All primary ST-segment abnormalities, Q waves, and T-wave abnormalities, except T-wave flattening, were seen more frequently in patients with a final diagnosis ACI (P = 0.001). Normal ECGs were more frequently associated with a non-ACI final diagnosis, yet 20% of AMI patients and 37% of Unstable Angina Pectoris (UAP) patients had normal ECGs. It can be concluded that certain clinical features can help to identify ED patients with ACI. Initially normal ECGs can be seen in 20% of patients with AMI and 37% of patients with UAP. Patients with ACI can present with "normal" blood pressures and develop cardiogenic shock. Clinical outcome data for ACI patients are presented.

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