Chest pain and ischemic heart disease : Diagnosis and management in primary health care

Abstract: Background and aims. In patients consulting for chest pain, it is of great importance to evaluate the possibility of ischemic heart disease (IHD). The aims in this thesis were to investigate the accuracy of the general practitioners’ clinical assessments and the applicability of exercise testing and myocardial perfusion scintigraphy (MPS) in patients consulting for chest pain in primary care.Statins are known to prevent IHD. A further aim was therefore to investigate if a relation could be detected on a population basis between the use of statins and the morbidity of acute myocardial infarction (AMI).Methods. All patients from 20 to 79 years, consulting for a new episode of chest pain in three primary health care centres, were included during almost two years from 1998 to 2000. The patients were managed according to the clinical evaluation. The presence of IHD was excluded either by clinical examination only, or if stable IHD was in question, by exercise testing and if the exercise test was inconclusive by an additional MPS. If unstable IHD or myocardial infarction was suspected, referral for emergency hospital examination was made.Correlations between statin sales and the morbidity of AMI in Sweden’s municipalities were analysed in an ecological, register based study. Adjustment was made for sales of antidiabetics, socio-economic deprivation indexes and geographic coordinates.Results. Consultations for chest pain represented 1.5% of all consultations in the ages 20 to 79 and were made by 554 patients. In 281 patients IHD was excluded by clinical examination only. In 208 patients stable IHD and in 65 unstable IHD was in question. Four patients (1.4%) evaluated as not having IHD, were diagnosed with angina pectoris or AMI within three months. Exercise testing was performed in 191 patients and revealed no IHD in 134 and IHD in 14 patients. In 43 patients the exercise test results were equivocal. Thirty-nine of these patients underwent MPS, which showed no IHD in 20 and IHD in 19 of the patients.In a follow up almost six years later, neither mortality rate nor prevalence of IHD differed significantly between the 384 study patients evaluated not to have IHD and the population controls.Statin sales and AMI-incidence or mortality showed no strong associations from 1998 to 2002.Conclusions.·Primary care is an appropriate level of care for ruling out IHD as the cause of chest pain, with sufficient safety and for diagnostics of stable IHD.·Exercise testing and myocardial perfusion scintigraphy are useful procedures when investigating chest pain patients in primary care.·The results indicate that preventive measures other than increased statin treatment should be considered to further decrease AMI-morbidity.