Every year, more than 5 million people go to the Emergency Room(ER) with chest pain which has persisted for 20 to 30 minutes. Most receive an ECG and other standard tests to determine if they are having a heart attack or other serious heart problems. However, ECGs can be completely normal even when a heart attack is taking place. ECGs are also sometimes unable to identify unstable angina, or chest pain. Researchers suggest that about 2 percent of patients with heart attack are actually sent home from the emergency room because the attack was not properly diagnosed.
A new study was recently conducted by investigators who wanted to find out if administering a cardiac MRI would improve doctors' ability to correctly diagnose a set of heart problems known as acute coronary syndrome (ACS) which can lead to heart attack. The study involved 161 patients who came to the ER after experiencing 30 minutes of chest pain, but had ECG results that didn't suggest a heart attack. These patients were later (within 12 hours) administered a cardiac MRI. They found that MRI significantly improved the diagnosis of ACS as compared to other standard tests. The authors concluded that MRI was the strongest predictor of heart problems and it added diagnostic value over clinical parameters.