Newer cardiac computed tomographic (CT) technology has permitted comprehensive cardiothoracic evaluations for coronary artery disease, pulmonary embolism, and aortic dissection within a single breath hold, independent of the heart rate. We conducted a randomized diagnostic trial to compare the efficiency of a comprehensive cardiothoracic CT examination in the evaluation of patients presenting to the emergency department with undifferentiated acute chest discomfort or dyspnea. We randomized the emergency department patients clinically scheduled to undergo a dedicated CT protocol to assess coronary artery disease, pulmonary embolism, or aortic dissection to either the planned dedicated CT protocol or a comprehensive cardiothoracic CT protocol. All CT examinations were performed using a 64-slice dual source CT scanner. The CT results were immediately communicated to the emergency department providers, who directed further management at their discretion. The subjects were then followed for the remainder of their hospitalization and for 30 days after hospitalization. Overall, 59 patients (mean age 51.2 ± 11.4 years, 72.9% men) were randomized to either dedicated (n = 30) or comprehensive (n = 29) CT scanning. No significant difference was found in the median length of stay (7.6 vs 8.2 hours, p = 0.79), rate of hospital discharge without additional imaging (70% vs 69%, p = 0.99), median interval to exclusion of an acute event (5.2 vs 6.5 hours, p = 0.64), costs of care (p = 0.16), or the number of revisits (p = 0.13) between the dedicated and comprehensive arms, respectively. In addition, radiation exposure (11.3 mSv vs 12.8 mSv, p = 0.16) and the frequency of incidental findings requiring follow-up (24.1% vs 33.3%, p = 0.57) were similar between the 2 arms. Comprehensive cardiothoracic CT scanning was feasible, with a similar diagnostic yield to dedicated protocols. However, it did not reduce the length of stay, rate of subsequent testing, or costs. In conclusion, although this "triple rule out" protocol might be helpful in the evaluation of select patients, these findings suggest that it should not be used routinely with the expectation that it will improve efficiency or reduce resource use.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine