The Use of Empiric Clinical Data in the Evaluation of Practice Guidelines for Unstable Angina

David A. Katz, MD, MSc; John L. Griffith, PhD; Joni R. Beshansky, RN, MPH; Harry P. Selker, MD, MSPH
JAMA. 1996;276(19):1568-1574. doi:10.1001/jama.1996.03540190040027.
Text Size: A A A
Published online

Objective.  —To determine the applicability to emergency department (ED) clinical practice of a nationally disseminated practice guideline on the disposition of patients with a diagnosis of unstable angina, and to determine the potential impact of the guideline on hospital admissions and demand for intensive care beds.

Design.  —Application of guideline criteria for ED disposition decisions to a validation sample derived from a prospective clinical trial.

Setting.  —Five hospitals, including 2 urban general teaching hospitals, 2 urban tertiary care university hospitals, and 1 suburban university-affiliated community hospital.

Patients.  —A consecutive sample of 457 patients who presented with symptoms suggestive of acute cardiac ischemia and who had "unstable angina" or "rule out unstable angina" diagnosed by ED physicians. Greater than 90% of eligible patients were enrolled in the clinical trial; follow-up data sufficient for assignment of a definitive diagnosis were obtained for 99% of subjects.

Main Outcome Measures.  —Acute myocardial infarction and unstable angina, based on blind review of initial and follow-up clinical data, including cardiac enzyme levels and electrocardiograms. After completion of the trial, without knowledge of final diagnosis or outcome, the investigators classified patients into risk groups specified by the unstable angina guideline.

Results.  —Of subjects with an ED diagnosis of unstable angina, only 6% (n=28) met the guideline's criteria corresponding to low risk for adverse events and were therefore suitable for discharge directly to home. Fifty-four percent (n=247) met the intermediate-risk criteria; 40% (n=182) met the high-risk criteria and were identified as requiring admission to an intensive care unit. Actual ED disposition differed from guideline recommendations in 2 major areas: only 4% (1/28) of low-risk patients were discharged to home with outpatient follow-up, and only 40% (72/182) of highrisk patients were admitted to an intensive care unit.

Conclusions.  —Although the guideline was intended to reduce hospitalization by identifying a low-risk group, the small size of this group among ED patients suggests that little reduction in hospitalization can be expected. Indeed, the guideline may increase demand for the limited number of intensive care beds to accommodate patients with unstable angina considered high-risk but currently placed elsewhere. These results emphasize the need to use empiric data from target clinical settings to assess the likely actual impact of guidelines on clinical care prior to national dissemination.


Sign In to Access Full Content

Don't have Access?

Register and get free email Table of Contents alerts, saved searches, PowerPoint downloads, CME quizzes, and more

Subscribe for full-text access to content from 1998 forward and a host of useful features

Activate your current subscription (AMA members and current subscribers)

Purchase Online Access to this article for 24 hours




Meets CME requirements for:
Browse CME for all U.S. States
Accreditation Information
The American Medical Association is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education to provide continuing medical education for physicians. The AMA designates this journal-based CME activity for a maximum of 1 AMA PRA Category 1 CreditTM per course. Physicians should claim only the credit commensurate with the extent of their participation in the activity. Physicians who complete the CME course and score at least 80% correct on the quiz are eligible for AMA PRA Category 1 CreditTM.
Note: You must get at least of the answers correct to pass this quiz.
You have not filled in all the answers to complete this quiz
The following questions were not answered:
Sorry, you have unsuccessfully completed this CME quiz with a score of
The following questions were not answered correctly:
Commitment to Change (optional):
Indicate what change(s) you will implement in your practice, if any, based on this CME course.
Your quiz results:
The filled radio buttons indicate your responses. The preferred responses are highlighted
For CME Course: A Proposed Model for Initial Assessment and Management of Acute Heart Failure Syndromes
Indicate what changes(s) you will implement in your practice, if any, based on this CME course.
Citing articles are presented as examples only. In non-demo SCM6 implementation, integration with CrossRef’s "Cited By" API will populate this tab (http://www.crossref.org/citedby.html).


Some tools below are only available to our subscribers or users with an online account.

Sign In to Access Full Content

Related Content

Customize your page view by dragging & repositioning the boxes below.