CCTA Helps Diagnosis Heart Disease in Low-Risk Patients

July 26, 2012

Low-risk patients presenting to the emergency department with chest pain benefit from undergoing coronary CT angiography as part of an initial evaluation.

Low-risk patients presenting to the emergency department with chest pain benefit from undergoing coronary CT angiography (CCTA) as part of an initial evaluation, show findings of a study published earlier today in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Researchers at the Massachusetts General Hospital assessed 1,000 patients, between the ages of 40 to 74, who presented to the ED between April 2010 and January 2012 with complaints of chest pain. These patients had no history of cardiovascular disease and the initial tests (ECG and measurement of the biomarker troponin) did not indicate evidence of a heart attack.

The researchers were looking at how long patients would stay in the hospital, as well as rates of discharge from the ED, major adverse cardiac events at 28 days, and cumulative costs.
Patients were randomly assigned to test group or control group, which received standard investigations. The test group underwent CCTA in addition to the regular exams.

Results showed that the patients who underwent CCTA spent significantly less time in the ED, being discharged within 8.6 hours (mean length of stay reduced by 7.6 hours) than did those in the control group, regardless of if they were discharged home or were admitted to the hospital. In addition, more patients in the CCTA group were discharged directly from the ED (47 percent versus 12 percent).

There were no undetected acute coronary events among the test group, nor did the researchers find any differences in major adverse events.

The researchers did acknowledge that the patients in the test group underwent more procedures than did those in the test groups, which led to exposure to higher cumulative doses of radiation, but the authors noted that previous tests looking into lower dose CCTA are promising and could be used in the future. There were no significant differences between the two groups in terms of cost over the 28-day follow-up.

“It’s very important to strive for the greatest efficiency in diagnostic testing, and in this study, additional testing was primarily carried out in patients found to have coronary artery disease, said Udo Hoffmann, MD, MPH, director of the Cardiac MR PET CT program at the hospital. “There also were fewer adverse clinical events in those receiving CCTA, although the study group was too small that CCTA reduced those risks.”

Hoffman added, “Showing at a variety of clinical sites that CCTA is at least as good as standard ED evaluation without increasing costs elevates the procedure from one appropriate only for specialized settings to one that can be applied in many centers.”