How do patients with chest pain access Emergency Department care?

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Abstract

Background

It is important that patients with symptoms of acute coronary syndrome receive appropriate medical care as soon as possible. Little is known about the preadmission actions that patients with chest pain take before arrival at the Emergency Department (ED).

Objective

This study aimed to describe the actions of patients with chest pain or pressure after onset of symptoms. What is the first action following onset of symptoms? Who is the first lay or professional person to be contacted? Which steps are taken first? How is the patient transported to the hospital?

Methods

Consecutive patients, arriving at the ED of two large hospitals in Belgium, were asked additional questions during the initial assessment.

Results

Overall, 35% of 412 consecutive patients with chest pain admitted to the ED were diagnosed with acute coronary syndrome. A total of 57% contacted a GP between symptom onset and arrival at the ED. Only 32% of the patients were transported to the ED by ambulance, 16% drove themselves and 52% arrived by other means of transport (by family, neighbour, GP, public transport).

Conclusion

In Belgium, the GP is still the first professional to be contacted for most patients. Other patients initially rely on their partner, family or friends when symptoms emerge. Too often, patients with chest pain rely on other transport to get to the ED instead of calling the Emergency Medical Services. This study included only patients who ultimately attended the ED.

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