Open Access Open Badges Research article

Ruling out coronary heart disease in primary care patients with chest pain: a clinical prediction score

Baris Gencer1, Paul Vaucher1, Lilli Herzig2, François Verdon2, Christiane Ruffieux3, Stefan Bösner4, Bernard Burnand3, Thomas Bischoff2, Norbert Donner-Banzhoff4 and Bernard Favrat1*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Ambulatory Care and Community Medicine, University of Lausanne, Switzerland

2 Institute of General Medicine, University of Lausanne, Switzerland

3 Institute of Social and Preventive Medicine, University of Lausanne, Switzerland

4 Department of General Practice/Family Medicine, University of Marburg, Germany

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BMC Medicine 2010, 8:9  doi:10.1186/1741-7015-8-9

Published: 21 January 2010



Chest pain raises concern for the possibility of coronary heart disease. Scoring methods have been developed to identify coronary heart disease in emergency settings, but not in primary care.


Data were collected from a multicenter Swiss clinical cohort study including 672 consecutive patients with chest pain, who had visited one of 59 family practitioners' offices. Using delayed diagnosis we derived a prediction rule to rule out coronary heart disease by means of a logistic regression model. Known cardiovascular risk factors, pain characteristics, and physical signs associated with coronary heart disease were explored to develop a clinical score. Patients diagnosed with angina or acute myocardial infarction within the year following their initial visit comprised the coronary heart disease group.


The coronary heart disease score was derived from eight variables: age, gender, duration of chest pain from 1 to 60 minutes, substernal chest pain location, pain increasing with exertion, absence of tenderness point at palpation, cardiovascular risks factors, and personal history of cardiovascular disease. Area under the receiver operating characteristics curve was of 0.95 with a 95% confidence interval of 0.92; 0.97. From this score, 413 patients were considered as low risk for values of percentile 5 of the coronary heart disease patients. Internal validity was confirmed by bootstrapping. External validation using data from a German cohort (Marburg, n = 774) revealed a receiver operating characteristics curve of 0.75 (95% confidence interval, 0.72; 0.81) with a sensitivity of 85.6% and a specificity of 47.2%.


This score, based only on history and physical examination, is a complementary tool for ruling out coronary heart disease in primary care patients complaining of chest pain.