Evaluation and disposition of low-risk chest pain (CP) patients in the emergency department (ED) is time consuming and expensive. Low-risk CP often results in hospital admission to rule out myocardial infarction, which leads to additional costs and delays.
Our aim was to assess whether an immediate exercise stress echocardiogram (IESE) in the ED will allow safe, efficient, and cost-effective evaluation and discharge of patients with low-risk CP.
Low-risk CP patients (TIMI [Thrombolysis in Myocardial Infarction] score 0-1) presenting to the ED with normal electrocardiogram, no history of coronary artery disease, and negative troponin T received IESE. We followed these patients for major adverse cardiac events and compared them to a control cohort of similar-risk patients admitted with traditional care at 1 and 6 months.
We enrolled 216 patients, 117 IESE and 109 control. We obtained follow-up at 1 and 6 months in 94% of the IESE group and 88% in the control group. There was no difference in diagnostic catheterization or percutaneous coronary intervention between the 2 groups (6.0% and 1.7% vs. 6.4% and 1.8%; p = 0.89). Median time from triage to discharge was significantly shorter with IESE (572.6 min vs. 1466.0 min), resulting in significantly lower cost ($4380.50 vs. $6191.70). There were no adverse events related to IESE or early discharge.
In our study, IESE for low-risk CP patients presenting to the ED has the potential to be equally safe, more expeditious, and more cost effective than admission to an observation unit.