ACC/AHA issue chest pain data standards update to 2021 guideline


The American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association have issued a set of data standards for chest pain and acute myocardial infarction to accompany the 2021 guidelines for evaluation and diagnosis of chest pain.

In October 2021, the AHA/ACC issued a joint clinical practice guideline encouraging clinicians to use standardized risk assessments, clinical pathways, and tools to evaluate and communicate with patients who present with chest pain, as reported by this news organization.

The writing group underscored the need to reach a consensus for the definitions of chest pain. The new document standardizes related data elements for consistent reporting on chest pain syndromes.

“This is an appendix to the guidelines and a planned effort to try to harmonize and bring uniformity to the language applied,” writing committee chair H.V. “Skip” Anderson, MD, with UT Health Science Center, Houston, told this news organization.

“You want heart attack to mean the same thing in Miami Beach as in Western Pennsylvania, as in Oregon and Washington and every place in between,” Dr. Anderson explained. “You want everybody to be using the same language, so that’s what these data standards are meant to do.”

In the document, data elements are grouped into three broad categories: chest pain, myocardial injury, and MI.

“We deliberately followed the plans contained in the new guideline and focused on potentially serious cardiovascular causes of chest pain as might be encountered in emergency departments,” the writing group notes in the document.

The terms “typical” and “atypical” as descriptors of chest pain or anginal syndromes are not used in the new document, in line with the 2021 guidance to abandon these terms.

Instead, the new document divides chest pain syndromes into three categories: “cardiac,” “possible cardiac,” and “noncardiac” – again, in keeping with the chest pain guideline.

The document also includes data elements for risk stratification scoring according to several common risk scoring algorithms and for procedure-related myocardial injury and procedure-related MI.

Each year, chest pain sends more than 7 million adults to the emergency department in the United States. Although noncardiac causes of chest pain make up a large majority of these cases, there are several life-threatening causes of chest pain that must be identified and treated promptly.

Distinguishing between serious and nonserious causes of chest pain is an urgent imperative, the writing group says.

Overall, they say this new clinical lexicon and set of data standards should be “broadly applicable” in various settings, including clinical trials and observational studies, patient care, electronic health records (EHRs), quality and performance improvement initiatives, registries, and public reporting programs.

The 2022 ACC/AHA Key Data Elements and Definitions for Chest Pain and Acute Myocardial Infarction was simultaneously published online in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology and Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes.

It was developed in collaboration with the American College of Emergency Physicians and the Society for Cardiac Angiography and Interventions and endorsed by the Society for Academic Emergency Medicine.

Dr. Anderson noted that “almost all of the guidelines that come out now, certainly in the last few years, have been followed after a certain interval by a set of data standards applicable to the guidelines.”

“It would be really great if it could actually be attached as an appendix, but the nature of the development of these things is such that there will always be a bit of a time lag between the writing group that develops the guidelines and the work group that develops the data standards; you can’t really have them working in parallel at the same time,” Dr. Anderson said in an interview.

This research had no commercial funding. The authors have no relevant disclosures.

A version of this article first appeared on

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