Objectives Acute chest pain (ACP) is a leading cause of hospital emergency unit consultation. As there are various underlying conditions, ranging from musculoskeletal disorders to acute coronary syndrome (ACS), thorough clinical diagnostics are warranted. The aim of this prospective study was to assess whether reproducible chest wall tenderness (CWT) on palpation in patients with ACP can help to rule out ACS.
Methods In this prospective, double-blinded diagnostic study, all consecutive patients assessed in the emergency unit at the University Hospital Zurich because of ACP between July 2012 and December 2013 were included when a member of the study team was present. Reproducible CWT on palpation was the initial step and was recorded before further examinations were initiated. The final diagnosis was adjudicated by a study-independent physician.
Results 121 patients (60.3% male, median age 47 years, IQR 34–66.5 years) were included. The prevalence of ACS was 11.6%. Non-reproducible CWT had a high sensitivity of 92.9% (95% CI 66.1% to 98.8%) for ACS and the presence of reproducible CWT ruled out ACS (p=0.003) with a high negative predictive value (98.1%, 95% CI 89.9% to 99.7%). Conversely non-reproducible CWT ruled in ACS with low specificity (48.6%, 95% CI 38.8% to 58.5%) and low positive predictive value (19.1%, 95% CI 10.6% to 30.5%).
Conclusions This prospective diagnostic study supports the concept that reproducible CWT helps to rule out ACS in patients with ACP in an early stage of the evaluation process. However, ACS and other diagnoses should be considered in patients with a negative CWT test.
Trial registration number ClinicalTrial.gov: NCT01724996.
- chest wall tenderness
- acute chest pain
- thoracic pain
- emergency admission
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