The evolution of chest pain pathways.

Research paper by Frances Iris Jean FI Mangleson, Louise L Cullen, Adam Charles AC Scott

Indexed on: 13 Oct '11Published on: 13 Oct '11Published in: Critical pathways in cardiology


Patients presenting to the emergency department with chest pain require prompt identification and referral, as early treatment of patients with an acute coronary syndrome (ACS) is crucial to decrease morbidity and mortality (Steurer et al, Emerg Med J. 2010;27:896-902). Although rule-in ACS is critical and time dependant, other difficulties arise during the rule-out ACS process (Steurer et al, Emerg Med J. 2010;27:896-902). Inappropriate discharge of patients with misdiagnosed acute myocardial infarction is associated with significant morbidity and mortality. Concerns relating to inappropriate discharge result in readmission with resultant lengthy hospital stays, high costs, and contribute to overcrowding and bed block (Amsterdam et al, J Am Coll Cardiol. 2002;40:251-256; Cardiol Clin. 2005;23:503-516; Furtado et al, Emerg Med. In press; Karlson, Am J Cardiol. 1991;68:171-175; Ng et al, Am J Cardiol. 2001;88:611-617; Ramakrishna et al, Mayo Clin Proc. 2005;80:322-329; Stowers, Crit Pathw Cardiol. 2003;2:88-94). The challenge of chest pain diagnosis has led to a number of associated problems within the health care system. The growing need for improvements in consistency of patient care, resource efficiency, and quality of patient healthcare has led to the development of chest pain pathways (Erhardt et al, Eur Heart J. 2002;23:1153-1176). The development and implementation of chest pain pathways is not without difficulties. These may arise from differences in the management approaches of health practitioners, poor adherence to guidelines, and concerns for costs. New procedures such as new cardiac injury markers, stress testing, and specialized chest pain units have led to a reduction in admission rates and length of stay, reduced costs, and a reduction of inappropriate discharge of patients with ischemic heart disease.