Emergency Department Cardiopulmonary Evaluation of Low-Risk Chest Pain Patients with Self-Reported Stress and Anxiety

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6 Scopus citations


Background Chest pain is a high-risk emergency department (ED) chief complaint; the majority of clinical resources are directed toward detecting and treating cardiopulmonary emergencies. However, at follow-up, 80%–95% of these patients have only a symptom-based diagnosis; a large number have undiagnosed anxiety disorders. Objective Our aim was to measure the frequency of self-identified stress or anxiety among chest pain patients, and compare their pretest probabilities, care processes, and outcomes. Methods Patients were divided into two groups: explicitly self-reported anxiety and stress or not at 90-day follow-up, then compared on several variables: ultralow (<2.5%) pretest probability, outcome rates for acute coronary syndrome (ACS) and pulmonary embolism (PE), radiation exposure, total costs at 30 days, and 90-day recidivism. Results Eight hundred and forty-five patients were studied. Sixty-seven (8%) explicitly attributed their chest pain to “stress” or “anxiety”; their mean ACS pretest probability was 4% (95% confidence interval 2.9%–5.7%) and 49% (33/67) had ultralow pretest probability (0/33 with ACS or PE). None (0/67) were diagnosed with anxiety. Seven hundred and seventy-eight did not report stress or anxiety and, of these, 52% (403/778) had ultralow ACS pretest probability. Only one patient (0.2%; 1/403) was diagnosed with ACS and one patient (0.4%; 1/268) was diagnosed with PE. Patients with self-reported anxiety had similar radiation exposure, associated costs, and nearly identical (25.4% vs. 25.7%) ED recidivism to patients without reported anxiety. Conclusions Without prompting, 8% of patients self-identified “stress” or “anxiety” as the etiology for their chest pain. Most had low pretest probability, were over-investigated for ACS and PE, and not investigated for anxiety syndromes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)273-279
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Emergency Medicine
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1 2017


  • acute coronary syndrome
  • psychological conditions
  • pulmonary embolism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Emergency Medicine

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