Contemporary Emergency Department Management of Patients with Chest Pain: A Concise Review and Guide for the High-Sensitivity Troponin Era
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This article synthesizes current best evidence for the evaluation of patients with suspected acute coronary syndrome (ACS) using high-sensitivity troponin assays, enabling physicians to effectively incorporate them into practice. Unlike conventional assays, high-sensitivity assays can precisely measure blood cardiac troponin concentrations in the vast majority of healthy individuals, facilitating the creation of rapid diagnostic algorithms. Very low troponin concentrations on presentation accurately rule out acute myocardial infarction (AMI) and enable the discharge of approximately 20% of patients after a single test, whereas an additional 30%-40% of patients can be safely discharged after short-interval serial sampling in as little as 1 or 2 hours. In contrast, highly abnormal troponin concentrations on presentation (more than 5 times the upper reference limit) or rapidly rising levels on serial testing can rapidly rule in AMI with high specificity. However, approximately one-third of patients remain in a biomarker-indeterminate "observation zone" even after serial sampling. These patients pose a disposition challenge to clinicians because although the differential diagnosis of elevated troponin concentrations is broad, these patients have an increased risk for short-term major adverse cardiac events. Use of repeated serial troponin sampling and structured clinical prediction tools may assist disposition for these patients, because no validated pathways currently exist to guide clinicians. Ongoing research to tailor diagnostic thresholds to individual patient characteristics may enable improved diagnostic accuracy and usher in a new era of personalized medicine in the evaluation of suspected ACS.
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