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Chest pain in general practice: a systematic review of prediction rules
  1. Ralf E Harskamp1,2,
  2. Simone C Laeven1,
  3. Jelle CL Himmelreich1,
  4. Wim A M Lucassen1,
  5. Henk C P M van Weert1
  1. 1 Department of General Practice, Amsterdam UMC, University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam Public Health, Academic Medical Center, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
  2. 2 Duke Clinical Research Institute, Durham, North Carolina, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dr. Ralf E Harskamp; r.e.harskamp{at}


Objective To identify and assess the performance of clinical decision rules (CDR) for chest pain in general practice.

Design Systematic review of diagnostic studies.

Data sources Medline/Pubmed, Embase/Ovid, CINAHL/EBSCO and Google Scholar up to October 2018.

Study selection Studies that assessed CDRs for intermittent-type chest pain and for rule out of acute coronary syndrome (ACS) applicable in general practice, thus not relying on advanced laboratory, computer or diagnostic testing.

Review methods Reviewers identified studies, extracted data and assessed the quality of the evidence (using Quality Assessment of Diagnostic Accuracy Studies (QUADAS-2)), independently and in duplicate.

Results Eight studies comprising five CDRs met the inclusion criteria. Three CDRs are designed for rule out of coronary disease in intermittent-type chest pain (Gencer rule, Marburg Heart Score, INTERCHEST), and two for rule out of ACS (Grijseels rule, Bruins Slot rule). Studies that examined the Marburg Heart Score had the highest methodological quality with consistent sensitivity (86%–91%), specificity (61%–81%) and positive (23%–35%) and negative (97%–98%) predictive values (PPV and NPV). The diagnostic performance of Gencer (PPV: 20%–34%, NPV: 95%–99%) and INTERCHEST (PPV: 35%–43%, NPV: 96%–98%) appear comparable, but requires further validation. The Marburg Heart Score was more sensitive in detecting coronary disease than the clinical judgement of the general practitioner. The performance of CDRs that focused on rule out of ACS were: Grijseels rule (sensitivity: 91%, specificity: 37%, PPV: 57%, NPV: 82%) and Bruins Slot (sensitivity: 97%, specificity: 10%, PPV: 23%, NPV: 92%). Compared with clinical judgement, the Bruins Slot rule appeared to be safer than clinical judgement alone, but the study was limited in sample size.

Conclusions In general practice, there is currently no clinical decision aid that can safely rule out ACS. For intermittent chest pain, several rules exist, of which the Marburg Heart Score has been most extensively tested and appears to outperform clinical judgement alone.

  • coronary heart disease
  • primary care
  • medical history

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  • Contributors REH and WAML conceived the study and were responsible for the design and search strategy. REH and SCL were responsible for conducting the search. REH, SCL and JCLH conducted the data analysis and produced the tables and graphs. HCPMvW provided input into the data analysis and interpretation. The initial draft of the manuscript was prepared by REH and SCL then circulated among the coauthors for critical revision. All authors helped to evolve analysis plans, interpret data and critically revise successive drafts of the manuscript.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors. Funding to cover author processing charges of this publication was provided by the Department of General Practice, Amsterdam UMC, University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam Public Health, Academic Medical Center, Amsterda, The Netherlands.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data sharing statement There are no additional data available.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

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