The purpose of the study was to describe the prognosis of patients with acute chest pain of different origin, but without myocardial infarction (non-AMI). A total of 204 patients were included. In 56, a definite diagnosis was obtained within 24-48 h of admission. The remaining 148 patients underwent the following examinations: exercise test, myocardial scintigraphy, echocardiography, Holier monitoring, hyperventilation test, oesophago-gastro-duodenoscopy, oesophageal manometry, oesophageal pH monitoring, Bernstein test, physical chest wall examination, bronchial histamine test, chest X-ray and ultrasonic upper abdominal examination. Ischaemic heart disease (IHD) was diagnosed in 64 patients, 81 had gastro-oesophageal disorders, 58 chest wall disorders, 9 pericarditis, 5 pulmonary embolism, 4 pneumonia/pleuritis, 3 pulmonary cancer, 2 dissecting aortic aneurysm, 1 aortic stenosis and 1 herpes zoster. During follow-up of 33 months, 31 of the 64 patients with IHD had a cardiac event (cardiac deaths, non-fatal AMI, bypass surgery or PTCA), whereas only 3 events occurred among the 140 patients without IHD (p < 0.00001). However, the frequency of readmissions and of recurrent episodes of chest pain were similar in the 3 major diagnostic groups (NS). To conclude, the high-risk subset of a non-AMI population can be identified by means of non-invasive cardiac examination. The remainder who have other diagnoses are at low risk. However, the morbidity is high with frequent readmissions and recurrent episodes of chest pain and the need for development of strategies with regard to diagnosis and treatment of these patients are emphasized.