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Acad Emerg Med. 2001 Feb;8(2):196-9.

Emergency department evaluation of chest pain using exercise stress echocardiography.

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Department of Emergency Medicine, Christiana Care Health Services, Newark, DE, USA.



Patients with a low risk of coronary artery disease (CAD) presenting to the emergency department (ED) with chest pain pose a diagnostic dilemma because a small percentage will suffer an acute myocardial infarction (MI) and sudden death. The authors conducted this study to determine whether exercise stress echocardiography (ESE) could be used to further support the safe discharge of these low-risk patients.


A convenience sample of patients > or =30 years of age without a prior cardiac history who presented to an academic community hospital with chest pain, normal initial creatine kinase, and electrocardiography without ischemic changes underwent ESE within 6 +/- 1.7 hours (mean +/- SD). Abnormal ESE was defined as regional wall motion abnormality at rest or after exercise. The ED disposition and three- and six-month follow-up for cardiac events were recorded. This was a prospective observational cohort study.


Of a total of 149 eligible patients, 145 completed the study. The mean age (+/-SD) was 47 +/- 9 years; 56% were male. No adverse events were noted during ESE. Seven patients (5%) had abnormal ESE (2 with rest wall motion abnormalities and 5 with exercise-induced wall motion abnormalities). Five of the seven underwent cardiac catheterization; three had CAD. All patients received telephone follow-up at three months and six months. Of the 138 patients with a normal ESE, all were free of cardiac events at three months. One patient had a non-Q-wave MI at six months (negative predictive value = 99.3%, 95% CI = 97.8% to 100%).


Exercise stress echocardiography can be used to evaluate low-risk chest pain patients in the ED. Patients with a normal ESE may be considered for discharge with minimal risk of sequelae.

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