Statistical tools can be used to create scores for assisting in the diagnosis of coronary artery disease and assessing prognosis. General practitioners and internists frequently function as gatekeepers, deciding which patients must be referred to the cardiologist. Therefore, they need to use the basic tools they have available (ie, history, physical examination and the exercise test) in an optimal fashion. Scores derived from multivariable statistical techniques considering clinical and exercise data have demonstrated superior discriminating power compared with diagnosis only using the ST segment response. In addition, by stratifying patients as to probability of disease and prognosis, they provide a more practical management strategy than a response of normal or abnormal. Although computers, as part of information management systems, can calculate complicated equations and derive these scores, physicians are reluctant to trust them. However, when represented as nomograms or simple additive discrete pieces of information, scores are more readily accepted. The scores have been compared with physician judgment and have been found to estimate the presence of coronary disease and prognosis as well as expert cardiologists and often better than nonspecialists. However, the discriminating power of specific variables from the medical history and exercise test remains unclear because of inadequate study design and differences in study populations. Should expired gases be substituted for estimated METs? Should ST/heart rate index be used instead of putting ST depression and heart rate separately into the models? Should right-sided chest leads and heart rate in recovery be considered? There is a need for further evaluation of these easily obtained variables to improve the accuracy of prediction algorithms, especially in women. The portability and reliability of scores must be ensured because access to specialized care must be safeguarded. Assessment of the clinical and exercise test data and application of the newer scores can empower the clinician to assure the cardiac patient access to appropriate and cost-effective cardiologic care.
View details for DOI 10.1053/pcad.2002.122693
View details for PubMedID 12024337