Evaluating patients with acute chest pain presenting to the emergency department remains an ongoing challenge. The spectrum of etiologies in acute chest pain ranges from minor disease entities to life-threatening diseases, such as pulmonary embolism, acute aortic dissection or acute myocardial infarction (MI). The diagnosis of acute MI is usually made integrating the triad of patient history and clinical presentation, readings of 12-lead ECG and measurement of cardiac troponins (cTn). Introduction of high-sensitivity cTn assays substantially increases sensitivity to identify patients with acute MI even at the time of presentation to the emergency department at the cost of specificity. However, the proportion of patients presenting with cTn positive, non-vascular cardiac chest pain triples with the implementation of new sensitive cTn assays increasing the difficulty for the emergency physician to identify those patients who are at need for invasive diagnostics. The main objectives of this mini-review are 1) to discuss elements of disposition decision made by the emergency physician for the evaluation of chest pain patients, 2) to summarize recent advances in assay technology and relate these findings into the clinical context, and 3) to discuss possible consequences for the clinical work and suggest an algorithm for the clinical evaluation of chest pain patients in the emergency department.
©2011 by Walter de Gruyter Berlin Boston