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Ann Emerg Med. 1998 Jul;32(1):1-7.

Evaluation of chest pain in low-risk patients presenting to the emergency department: the role of immediate exercise testing.

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Department of Internal Medicine, University of California-Davis Medical Center, Sacramento, USA.



To determine the safety and utility of immediate exercise testing in the evaluation of low-risk patients presenting to the emergency department with chest pain and its applicability to a heterogeneous population of men and women.


We conducted a prospective study of the safety and utility of immediate exercise testing in low-risk patients, as indicated by clinical and ECG criteria. The study group was large, heterogeneous, and included patients with a history of coronary artery disease. The patients were treated at a large, university medical center. Exercise testing (immediate exercise treadmill testing) was performed by internists, and cardiac serum enzyme levels were not measured before the exercise test.


A total of 212 patients (121 men, 91 women) underwent exercise testing with no adverse effects. Twenty-eight (13%) patients had positive results on exercise ECGs. Twenty-three of the latter had further evaluation that revealed evidence of coronary artery disease in 13 (57%). Fifty-nine percent (125/212) of patients had negative exercise test results and 28% (59/212) had nondiagnostic tests. All patients with negative test results and 93% with nondiagnostic test results were discharged directly from the ED. Thirty-day follow-up was achieved in 201 (95%) patients and revealed no mortality in any of the patients in the three groups. One patient with a positive exercise test result returned to the ED within 30 days with mild congestive heart failure.


Our results in this patient population support the safety and utility of immediate exercise testing of low-risk patients who present to the ED.

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