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What’s the risk? Assessment of patients with stable chest pain


In 2010, the National Institute for Heath and Clinical Excellence published guidelines for the management of stable chest pain of recent onset. Implementation has occurred to various degrees throughout the NHS; however, its effectiveness has yet to be proved. A retrospective study was undertaken to assess the impact and relevance of this guideline, comparing the estimated risk of coronary artery disease (CAD) with angiographic outcomes. Findings were compared with the recently published equivalent European guideline. A total of 457 patients who attended a Rapid Access Chest Pain Clinic were retrospectively reviewed. CAD risk was assessed according to NICE guidelines and patients were separated into typical, atypical and non-anginal chest pain groups. Risk stratification using typicality of symptoms in conjunction with NICE risk scoring and exercise tolerance testing was used to determine the best clinical course for each patient. The results include non-anginal chest pain–92% discharged without needing further testing; atypical angina–15% discharged, 40% referred for stress echocardiography, 35% referred for angiogram and significant CAD revealed in 8%; typical angina–4% discharged, 19% referred for stress echocardiography, 71% referred for angiogram and 40% demonstrated CAD. Both guidelines appear to overestimate the risk of CAD leading to an excessive number of coronary angiograms being undertaken to investigate patients with typical or atypical sounding angina, with a low pick up rate of CAD. Given the high negative predictive value of stress echocardiography and the confidence this brings, there is much scope for expanding its use and potentially reduce the numbers going for invasive angiography.


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Correspondence to Arzu Cubukcu PhD FRCP.

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Cubukcu, A., Murray, I. & Anderson, S. What’s the risk? Assessment of patients with stable chest pain. Echo Res Pract 2, 41–48 (2015).

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