Clinical question: In patients with possible cardiac chest pain, does an accelerated diagnostic protocol result in higher rates of successful early discharge when compared with the standard care pathway?
Background: An accelerated diagnostic pathway (ADP), which combines TIMI [thrombolysis in myocardial infarction] score, EKG, and zero- and two-hour troponin levels, can identify low-risk patients presenting with chest pain; however, little is known about its effect on the rates of early, successful discharge in a real-world population.
Study design: RCT.
Setting: An academic general and tertiary care hospital in Christchurch, New Zealand.
Synopsis: This study of 542 patients ages 18 years and older who presented with chest pain demonstrated that when compared with a conventional pathway, an ADP results in nearly twice the proportion of patients (19.3% vs. 11.0%; P=0.008) achieving safe, early discharge from the ED, defined as discharge within six hours and no major adverse cardiac events within 30 days. This was a single-center trial in New Zealand, which limits its sample size and its generalizability; however, if larger studies led to the implementation of ADP by ED physicians, there would likely be fewer low-risk patients admitted to hospitalist services for evaluation of chest pain.
Bottom line: An accelerated diagnostic chest pain protocol results in earlier discharge of low-risk patients.
Citation: Than M, Aldous S, Lord SJ, et al. A 2-hour diagnostic protocol for possible cardiac chest pain in the emergency department: a randomized clinical trial. JAMA Intern Med. 2014;174(1):51-58.