Outcomes in ED patients with non-specific ECG findings and low high-sensitivity troponin.



Although some emergency department risk stratification tools consider non-specific ECG findings as an aid in disposition decisions, their clinical value in patients with an initially low high-sensitivity cardiac troponin I (hsTnI) is unclear.


Our purpose was to determine if non-specific ECG (ns-ECG) findings are associated with 30-day major adverse cardiac events (MACE) in ED patients presenting with suspected acute coronary syndromes (ACS) who have a low initial hsTnI.


Using the prospective Siemens Atellica hsTnI Food and Drug Administration submission observational database, we conducted a retrospective cohort study of the association between ns-ECG findings (defined as left bundle branch block [LBBB], ST depression [STD], or T-wave inversions [TWI]) and 30-day MACE (death, myocardial infarction, heart failure hospitalization, or coronary revascularization). Eligible patients presented with suspected ACS to one of 29 US EDs from April 2015 to April 2016, had stable vital signs, a blood sample for hsTnI (Siemen's Atellica, Siemens Healthineers, Inc, Malvern, PA) obtained at 1, 3, and 6 hours after ED presentation, and were followed for 30 days. The relationship between 30-day outcome, initial hsTnI, and ns-ECG was evaluated using chi-square testing.


Of 2676 enrolled, 1313 patients met the inclusion criteria and are included in the analysis. Median (interquartile range) age was 62 years (54, 72), 54% were male, with 56% white, and 39% African American. Median (interquartile range) times from symptom onset to presentation and presentation to specimen collection were 92 (0, 216) and 146 (117, 177) minutes, respectively. The most common presenting symptoms were chest pain (84%), followed by dyspnea (9%). ECG findings were categorized as T-wave inversion or non-specific T wave changes (42%), ST depression ns-ECG ST changes (16%), or LBBB (2%). Thirty-day MACE occurred in 72 (5.5%) patients, with coronary revascularization (35 patients, 2.7%) and heart failure (25 patients, 1.9%) being the most frequent outcomes. In patients with an initial hsTnI below the limit of quantitation (LOQ) of 2.5 ng/L (n = 449), there was no association between ns-ECG changes and 30-day MACE (P = 0.42). If the hsTnI was ≥LOQ (2.5 ng/L), there were increased rates of 30-day MACE and ns-ECG findings (P = 0.01).


In ED suspected ACS patients without unstable vital signs, and an initial hsTnI less than the LOQ (2.5 ng/L), ns-ECG findings are not associated with 30-day major adverse cardiac events. The use of ns-ECG findings in ACS disposition should be considered in the context of hsTnI levels.





Published Version (Please cite this version)


Publication Info

Alshaikh, Lamees M, Fred S Apple, Robert H Christenson, Christopher R deFilippi, Alexander T Limkakeng, James McCord, Richard M Nowak, Adam J Singer, et al. (2022). Outcomes in ED patients with non-specific ECG findings and low high-sensitivity troponin. Journal of the American College of Emergency Physicians open, 3(6). p. e12844. 10.1002/emp2.12844 Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/26300.

This is constructed from limited available data and may be imprecise. To cite this article, please review & use the official citation provided by the journal.



Alexander Tan Limkakeng

Professor of Emergency Medicine

Dr. Alexander T. Limkakeng, Jr., MD, MHSc, FACEP is a Professor of Emergency Medicine, Vice Chair of Clinical Research, Director of the Acute Care Research Team, and Director of the Resident Research Fellowship for the Department of Emergency Medicine in the Duke University School of Medicine in Durham, North Carolina.

Dr. Limkakeng has served as chair of the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) Research Committee, and been the Course Director of the ACEP Research Forum from 2016-2018, the largest emergency medical research platform in the nation. He is also the Assistant Director of ACEP’s Emergency Medicine Basic Research Skills course. He was elected to the Nominating Committee of the Society of Academic Emergency Medicine.

As a researcher, Dr. Limkakeng has led multiple clinical trials and interdepartmental sponsored projects and is author on over 100 peer-reviewed manuscripts. These include studies in emergency conditions such as COVID-19, traumatic brain injury, hypertension, heart failure, thrombosis, stroke, envenomations, and septic shock. His research has been funded by grants and contracts totaling over $9 million dollars. He has lectured internationally on acute coronary syndrome, responsible conduct of research, design of clinical trials, and precision medicine in emergency care. He has led Duke’s involvement in NIH-funded research networks and in industry-funded work that led to FDA approval for multiple high-sensitivity cardiac troponin assays and point-of-care COVID-19 diagnostic tests. He has servesd as Co-PI for the Duke U24 Hub in the NIH Early Phase Pain Investigation Clinical Network (EPPIC-Net) (1U24NS114416) and now serves as a co-PI on the Duke U24 Hub award (1U24NS129498) in the NIH Strategies to Innovate Emergency Care Clinical Trials (SIREN) Network and in the NIH NINDS Strokenet network (1U24NS135250)

His personal research interest is finding new ways to diagnose acute coronary syndrome. In particular, he is interested in novel biomarkers and precision medicine approaches to this problem. The common element throughout this work is a focus on time-sensitive health conditions.

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