Causes of death in patients presenting to hospital with symptoms suggestive of acute myocardial infarction: a one-year follow-up study with autopsy results

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About 20% of patients admitted to a medical emergency room have chest pain or other symptoms raising suspicion of acute myocardial infarction. Aim: To describe the place and mode of death in such patients during 1 year of follow-up. Patients: All patients (n = 5362) admitted to a single hospital during 21 months because of such symptoms.


In all. 565 patients (11%) died. Death rate was directly related to the initial degree of suspicion of acute myocardial infarction. Of these patients, 196 (35%) died during initial hospitalization and only 89 (16%) died outside the hospital. The overall autopsy rate was 53%. Of the deaths that occurred during initial hospitalization, the majority were judged as cardiac, most being due to acute myocardial infarction, particularly if the patients died in the coronary care unit. Among patients who died after discharge from hospital, non-cardiac factors contributed more substantially to death, particularly in patients who died during rehospitalization. The cause of death was not established in a high proportion of patients who died outside hospital.


The results suggest that, among patients admitted to the emergency room because of suspected acute myocardial infarction, causes of death other than a documented cardiac event become increasingly important when the interval between admittance to the emergency room and death increases.

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