Actual financial comparison of four strategies to evaluate patients with potential acute coronary syndromes

Anna Marie Chang, Frances S. Shofer, Mark G. Weiner, Marie B. Synnestvedt, Harold I. Litt, William G. Baxt, Judd E. Hollander

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


Objectives: Small studies have shown that a negative computed tomography coronary angiogram (CTA) in low-risk chest pain patients predicts a low rate of 30-day adverse events. The authors hypothesized that an immediate CTA strategy would be as effective but less costly than alternative strategies for evaluation of patients with potential acute coronary syndrome (ACS). Methods: The authors retrospectively compared four strategies for evaluation of patients after initial physician determination that the patient required admission and testing to rule out ACS. Patients were frequency-matched by age, race, gender, thrombolysis in myocardial infarction (TIMI) score, and initial electrocardiogram (ECG). The four groups were immediate CTA in the emergency department (ED) without serial markers (n = 98); clinical decision unit?observation unit (CDU) with biomarkers and CTA (n = 102); CDU evaluation with serial cardiac biomarkers and stress testing (n = 154); and usual care, defined as admission with serial biomarkers and hospitalist-directed evaluation (n = 289). The main outcomes were actual cost of care (facility direct and indirect fixed, facility variable direct labor and supply costs), length of stay (LOS), diagnosis of coronary artery disease (CAD), and safety (30-day death or myocardial infarction [MI]). Results: Patients in each group were of similar age (mean ± standard deviation [SD] 46 ± 9 years), race (62% African American), and gender (57% female) and had similar TIMI scores (100% between 0-2). Comparing immediate CTA versus CDU CTA versus CDU stress versus usual care, median costs were less ($1,240 vs. 2,318 vs. 4,024 vs. 2,913; p < 0.01), and LOS was shorter (8.1 hr vs. 20.9 hr vs. 26.2 hr vs. 30.2 hr; p < 0.01). Diagnosis of CAD was similar (5.1% vs. 5.9% vs. 5.8% vs. 6.6%; p = 0.95), but fewer patients had 30-day death?MI (0% vs. 0% vs. 0.7% vs. 3.1%; p = 0.04) or 30-day readmission (0% vs. 3.2% vs. 2.3% vs. 12.2%; p < 0.01). Conclusions: Compared to the other strategies, immediate CTA was as safe, identified as many patients with CAD, had the lowest cost, had the shortest LOS, and allowed discharge for the majority of patients. Larger prospective studies should confirm safety before immediate CTA replaces other strategies to rule out possible ACS.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)649-655
Number of pages7
JournalAcademic Emergency Medicine
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2008
Externally publishedYes


  • Acute coronary syndrome
  • Computed tomography coronary angiography
  • Cost analysis
  • Observation unit

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Emergency Medicine


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