Acute, undifferentiated chest pain (chest pain ?cause) presents a frequent and difficult challenge to clinicians working in the emergency setting. We aimed to survey current management of this problem in UK accident and emergency departments by sending a postal questionnaire to the lead clinician or first named consultant in every major A&E department in the UK.
Responses were received from 177/238 departments (74%). Although 74 departments (42%) had formal guidelines, many referred only to diagnosed coronary syndromes. Guidelines for undifferentiated chest pain usually recommended observation for six to 12 hours followed by troponin testing. Short-stay facilities were available in 38 departments (21%) and were planned for 55 departments (31%). Provocative cardiac testing could be accessed by 38 departments (21%). Patients were admitted by general physicians in 152 hospitals (86%) and cardiologists in 18 (10%). The estimated proportion of patients admitted was extremely variable. Although 45 departments (25%) employed specialist nurses, only in 20 did they manage patients with undifferentiated chest pain.
Reported management of acute, undifferentiated chest pain in the UK shows wide variation. Innovative technologies and diverse methods of service delivery are being adopted in a number of departments. These innovations require thorough evaluation.
For UK healthcare professionals only