Best Clinical Practice: Current Controversies in Evaluation of Low-Risk Chest Pain—Part 1

Brit Long, Alex Koyfman

Research output: Contribution to journalComment/debate

7 Scopus citations


Background Chest pain is a common presentation to the emergency department (ED), though the majority of patients are not diagnosed with acute coronary syndrome (ACS). Many patients are admitted to the hospital due to fear of ACS. Objective Our aim was to investigate controversies in low-risk chest pain evaluation, including risk of missed ACS, stress test, and coronary computed tomography angiography (CCTA). Discussion Chest pain accounts for 10 million ED visits in the United States annually. Many patients are at low risk for a major cardiac adverse event (MACE). With negative troponin and nonischemic electrocardiogram (ECG), the risk of MACE and myocardial infarction (MI) is < 1%. The American Heart Association recommends further evaluation in low- to intermediate-risk patients within 72 h. These modalities add little to further risk stratification. These evaluations do not appropriately risk stratify patients who are already at low risk, nor do they diagnose acute MI. CCTA is an anatomic evaluation of the coronary vasculature with literature support to decrease ED length of stay, though it is associated with downstream testing. Literature is controversial concerning further risk stratification in already low-risk patients. Conclusions With nonischemic ECG and negative cardiac biomarker, the risk of ACS approaches < 1%. Use of stress test and CCTA for risk stratification of low-risk chest pain patients is controversial. These tests may allow prognostication but do not predict ACS risk beyond ECG and troponin. CCTA may be useful for intermediate-risk patients, though further studies are required.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)668-676
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Emergency Medicine
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 1 2016


  • chest pain
  • coronary computed tomography angiography
  • low risk
  • stress test

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Emergency Medicine

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