The long-term prognosis for cardiac death was prospectively evaluated in three subpopulations admitted to a coronary care unit with chest pain under suspicion of acute myocardial infarction (AMI) with (1) confirmed AMI (n = 275), (2) AMI ruled out, but suspicion of coronary artery disease (n = 257) and (3) AMI ruled out and an obvious noncoronary reason for chest pain (n = 63). The latter subgroup included patients with pericarditis, valvular disease, arrhythmia, pneumonia, pulmonary embolism, gastric ulcer and musculoskeletal disorders. The 7-year cardiac mortality rates of the three subpopulations were 34, 17 and 32%, respectively (p < 0.0001). Despite the ‘benign’ nature of the chest pain, the cardiac mortality was high in all diagnostic categories of noncoronary chest pain. In conclusion, patients admitted with chest pain of apparently noncoronary origin are at high risk for later cardiac death. This indicates the presence of severe coronary artery disease in some of the patients. Consequently, all patients with chest pain and AMI ruled out should be evaluated carefully regarding coronary artery disease at the time of discharge.