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BACKGROUND: High-sensitivity cardiac troponin assays enable myocardial infarction to be ruled out earlier, but the safety and efficacy of this approach is uncertain. We investigated whether an early rule-out pathway is safe and effective for patients with suspected acute coronary syndrome. METHODS: We performed a stepped-wedge cluster randomized controlled trial in the emergency departments of 7 acute care hospitals in Scotland. Consecutive patients presenting with suspected acute coronary syndrome between December 2014 and December 2016 were included. Sites were randomized to implement an early rule-out pathway where myocardial infarction was excluded if high-sensitivity cardiac troponin I concentrations were <5 ng/L at presentation. During a previous validation phase, myocardial infarction was ruled out when troponin concentrations were <99th percentile at 6 to 12 hours after symptom onset. The coprimary outcome was length of stay (efficacy) and myocardial infarction or cardiac death after discharge at 30 days (safety). Patients were followed for 1 year to evaluate safety and other secondary outcomes. RESULTS: We enrolled 31 492 patients (59±17 years of age [mean±SD]; 45% women) with troponin concentrations <99th percentile at presentation. Length of stay was reduced from 10.1±4.1 to 6.8±3.9 hours (adjusted geometric mean ratio, 0.78 [95% CI, 0.73-0.83]; P<0.001) after implementation and the proportion of patients discharged increased from 50% to 71% (adjusted odds ratio, 1.59 [95% CI, 1.45-1.75]). Noninferiority was not demonstrated for the 30-day safety outcome (upper limit of 1-sided 95% CI for adjusted risk difference, 0.70% [noninferiority margin 0.50%]; P=0.068), but the observed differences favored the early rule-out pathway (0.4% [57/14 700] versus 0.3% [56/16 792]). At 1 year, the safety outcome occurred in 2.7% (396/14 700) and 1.8% (307/16 792) of patients before and after implementation (adjusted odds ratio, 1.02 [95% CI, 0.74-1.40]; P=0.894), and there were no differences in hospital reattendance or all-cause mortality. CONCLUSIONS: Implementation of an early rule-out pathway for myocardial infarction reduced length of stay and hospital admission. Although noninferiority for the safety outcome was not demonstrated at 30 days, there was no increase in cardiac events at 1 year. Adoption of this pathway would have major benefits for patients and health care providers. Registration: URL:; Unique identifier: NCT03005158.

Original publication




Journal article



Publication Date





2214 - 2224


biomarkers, chest pain, myocardial infarction, randomized controlled trial, troponin, Adult, Aged, Biomarkers, Electrocardiography, Female, Follow-Up Studies, Humans, Length of Stay, Male, Middle Aged, Myocardial Infarction, Odds Ratio, Patient Discharge, Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic, Risk Factors, Treatment Outcome, Troponin I