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      Missed Diagnoses of Acute Cardiac Ischemia in the Emergency Department

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          Abstract

          Discharging patients with acute myocardial infarction or unstable angina from the emergency department because of missed diagnoses can have dire consequences. We studied the incidence of, factors related to, and clinical outcomes of failure to hospitalize patients with acute cardiac ischemia. We analyzed clinical data from a multicenter, prospective clinical trial of all patients with chest pain or other symptoms suggesting acute cardiac ischemia who presented to the emergency departments of 10 U.S. hospitals. Of 10,689 patients, 17 percent ultimately met the criteria for acute cardiac ischemia (8 percent had acute myocardial infarction and 9 percent had unstable angina), 6 percent had stable angina, 21 percent had other cardiac problems, and 55 percent had noncardiac problems. Among the 889 patients with acute myocardial infarction, 19 (2.1 percent) were mistakenly discharged from the emergency department (95 percent confidence interval, 1.1 to 3.1 percent); among the 966 patients with unstable angina, 22 (2.3 percent) were mistakenly discharged (95 percent confidence interval, 1.3 to 3.2 percent). Multivariable analysis showed that patients who presented to the emergency department with acute cardiac ischemia were more likely not to be hospitalized if they were women less than 55 years old (odds ratio for discharge, 6.7; 95 percent confidence interval, 1.4 to 32.5), were nonwhite (odds ratio, 2.2; 1.1 to 4.3), reported shortness of breath as their chief symptom (odds ratio, 2.7; 1.1 to 6.5), or had a normal or nondiagnostic electrocardiogram (odds ratio, 3.3; 1.7 to 6.3). Patients with acute infarction were more likely not to be hospitalized if they were nonwhite (odds ratio for discharge, 4.5; 95 percent confidence interval, 1.8 to 11.8) or had a normal or nondiagnostic electrocardiogram (odds ratio, 7.7; 95 percent confidence interval, 2.9 to 20.2). For the patients with acute infarction, the risk-adjusted mortality ratio for those who were not hospitalized, as compared with those who were, was 1.9 (95 percent confidence interval, 0.7 to 5.2), and for the patients with unstable angina, it was 1.7 (95 percent confidence interval, 0.2 to 17.0). The percentage of patients who present to the emergency department with acute myocardial infarction or unstable angina who are not hospitalized is low, but the discharge of such patients is associated with increased mortality. Failure to hospitalize is related to race, sex, and the absence of typical features of cardiac ischemia. Continued efforts to reduce the number of missed diagnoses are warranted.

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          Most cited references17

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          Treatment of myocardial infarction in a coronary care unit

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            Use of the acute cardiac ischemia time-insensitive predictive instrument (ACI-TIPI) to assist with triage of patients with chest pain or other symptoms suggestive of acute cardiac ischemia. A multicenter, controlled clinical trial.

            Approximately 6 million U.S. patients present to emergency departments annually with symptoms suggesting acute cardiac ischemia. Triage decisions for these patients are important but remain difficult. To test whether computerized prediction of the probability of acute ischemia, used with electrocardiography, improves the accuracy of triage decisions. Controlled clinical trial. 10 hospital emergency departments in the midwestern, southeastern, and northeastern United States. 10689 patients with chest pain or other symptoms suggestive of acute cardiac ischemia. The probability of acute ischemia predicted by the acute cardiac ischemia time-insensitive predictive instrument (ACI-TIPI), either automatically printed or not printed on patients' electrocardiograms. Emergency department triage to a coronary care unit (CCU), telemetry unit, ward, or home. Other measurements were the bed capacity of the CCU relative to that of the telemetry unit; training or supervision status of the triaging physician; and patient diagnoses and outcomes based on clinical, electrocardiographic, and creatine kinase data. For patients without cardiac ischemia, in hospitals with high-capacity CCUs and relatively low-capacity cardiac telemetry units, use of ACI-TIPI was associated with a reduction in CCU admissions from 15% to 12%, a change of -16% (95% CI, -30% to 0%), and an increase in emergency department discharges to home from 49% to 52%, a change of 6% (CI, 0% to 14%; overall P=0.09). Across all hospitals, for patients evaluated by unsupervised residents, use of ACI-TIPI was associated with a reduction in CCU admissions from 14% to 10%, a change of -32% (CI, -55% to 3%); a reduction in telemetry unit admissions from 39% to 31%, a change of -20% (CI, -34% to -2%); and an increase in discharges to home from 45% to 56%, a change of 25% (CI, 8% to 45%; overall P=0.008). Among patients with stable angina, in hospitals with high-capacity CCUs, use of ACI-TIPI was associated with a reduction in CCU admissions from 26% to 13%, a change of -50% (CI, -70% to -17%), and an increase in discharges to home from 20% to 22%, a change of 10% (CI, -29% to 71%; overall P=0.02). At hospitals with high-capacity telemetry units, use of ACI-TIPI was associated with a reduction in telemetry unit admissions from 68% to 59%, a change of -14% (CI, -27% to 1%), and an increase in emergency department discharges to home from 10% to 21%, a change of 100% (CI, 22% to 230%; overall P=0.02). Among patients with acute myocardial infarction or unstable angina, use of ACI-TIPI did not change appropriate admission (96%) to the CCU or telemetry unit at hospitals with high-capacity CCUs or telemetry units. Use of ACI-TIPI was associated with reduced hospitalization among emergency department patients without acute cardiac ischemia. This result varied as expected according to the CCU and cardiac telemetry unit capacities and physician supervision at individual hospitals. Appropriate admission for unstable angina or acute infarction was not affected. If ACI-TIPI is used widely in the United States, its potential incremental impact may be more than 200000 fewer unnecessary hospitalizations and more than 100000 fewer unnecessary CCU admissions.
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              International diagnostic criteria for acute myocardial infarction and acute stroke.

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                Author and article information

                Journal
                New England Journal of Medicine
                N Engl J Med
                Massachusetts Medical Society
                0028-4793
                1533-4406
                April 20 2000
                April 20 2000
                : 342
                : 16
                : 1163-1170
                Article
                10.1056/NEJM200004203421603
                10770981
                10f2b36f-d752-4eb8-8a72-f28de9f43b8b
                © 2000

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