Background The diagnosis of acute aortic syndrome (AAS) is commonly delayed or missed in the ED. We describe characteristics of ED attendances with symptoms potentially associated with AAS, diagnostic performance of clinical decision tools (CDTs) and physicians and yield of CT aorta angiogram (CTA).
Methods This was a multicentre observational cohort study of adults attending 27 UK EDs between 26 September 2022 and 30 November 2022, with potential AAS symptoms: chest, back or abdominal pain, syncope or symptoms related to malperfusion. Patients were preferably identified prospectively, but retrospective recruitment was also permitted. Anonymised, routinely collected patient data including components of CDTs, was abstracted. Clinicians treating prospectively identified patients were asked to record their perceived likelihood of AAS, prior to any confirmatory testing. Reference standard was radiological or operative confirmation of AAS. 30-day electronic patient record follow-up evaluated whether a subsequent diagnosis of AAS had been made and mortality.
Results 5548 patients presented, with a median age of 55 years (IQR 37–72; n=5539). 14 (0.3%; n=5353) had confirmed AAS. 10/1046 (1.0%) patients in whom the ED clinician thought AAS was possible had AAS. 5/147 (3.4%) patients in whom AAS was considered the most likely diagnosis had AAS. 2/3319 (0.06%) patients in whom AAS was considered not possible did have AAS. 540 (10%; n=5446) patients underwent CT, of which 407 were CTA (7%). 30-day follow-up did not reveal any missed AAS diagnoses. AUROC (area under the receiver operating characteristic) curve for ED clinician AAS likelihood rating was 0.958 (95% CI 0.933 to 0.983, n=4006) and for individual CDTs were: Aortic Dissection Detection Risk Score (ADD-RS) 0.674 (95% CI 0.508 to 0.839, n=4989), AORTAs 0.689 (95% CI 0.527 to 0.852, n=5132), Canadian 0.818 (95% CI 0.686 to 0.951, n=5180) and Sheffield 0.628 (95% CI 0.467 to 0.788, n=5092).
Conclusion Only 0.3% of patients presenting with potential AAS symptoms had AAS but 7% underwent CTA. CDTs incorporating clinician gestalt appear to be most promising, but further prospective work is needed, including evaluation of the role of D-dimer.
- emergency department
- computed tomography
- diagnostic tests
Data availability statement
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