HEART score can safely identify low risk chest pain


Clinical Question: Can the HEART score risk stratify emergency department patients with chest pain?

Background: Many patients with chest pain are subjected to unnecessary admission and testing. The HEART (History, Electrocardiogram, Age, Risk factors, and initial Troponin) score can accurately predict outcomes in chest pain patients, though it has undergone limited evaluation in real world settings.

Study Design: A cluster randomized trial.

Setting: Nine emergency departments in the Netherlands.

Synopsis: All sites started by providing usual care, then sequentially switched over to use of the HEART score to guide treatment. HEART care recommended early discharge if low risk (HEART score, 0-3), admission and further testing if intermediate risk (4-6), and early invasive testing if high risk (7-10).

The study included 3,648 adults presenting with chest pain. The HEART score was noninferior to usual care for the safety outcome of major adverse cardiovascular events (MACE) within 6 weeks. Only 2.0% of low risk patients experienced MACE, though 41% of these patients were still admitted or sent for further testing, and reduction in health care cost was minimal.

Bottom Line: The HEART score accurately predicted risk in patients with chest pain, but a significant portion of low risk patients underwent further testing anyway.

Citation: Poldervaart JM, Reitsma JB, Backus BE, et al. Effect of using the HEART score in patients with chest pain in the emergency department. Ann Intern Med. 2017 May 16;166(10):689-97.

Dr. Troy is assistant professor in the University of Kentucky division of hospital medicine.

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