Media release: Quicker diagnosis for cardiac emergencies

2 April 2015

Ground-breaking Australian research into cardiac emergencies has led to quicker treatment, less hospital crowding, and millions of health dollars being diverted to help patients most in need.

With chest pain the biggest single reason people present to hospital emergency departments in Australia, emergency doctors have devised an accelerated method of diagnosing the most serious cases.

The $1 million Emergency Medicine Foundation (EMF) Queensland Research Program project, led by emergency physician Professor Louise Cullen, has shown new diagnostic procedures can shorten hospital stays for patients and divert doctor hours and resources to more acute cases.

“Chest pain is the biggest single reason people end up in emergency departments with more than 90,000 patients presenting to Queensland hospital EDs each year with chest pain,’’ Professor Cullen said.

“However, only one in five of those patients actually suffer a heart attack. The rest are diagnosed as indigestion or other less serious conditions.

“The Rapid Assessment of Cardiac Chest Pain Research has shown it can reduce the length of hospital stay for most of these patients from 25 hours down to eight hours, which frees up the equivalent of 42,500 bed days per year.’’

If the new method was adopted by all Queensland public hospitals, cost analysis estimates economic benefits of up to $68 million per year across the state’s health system.

Health Minister Cameron Dick applauded the research undertaken by Professor Cullen over many years.

“Professor Cullen is highly-regarded in her field and one of the brightest medical minds in the state and the country,” Mr Dick said.

“Her research, is about more than just freeing up hospitals beds and saving health dollars – it’s about providing the best patient care and the best possible outcomes.

“I applaud her work to ensure Queenslanders are getting the best possible care.”

EMF chief executive officer Karen Murphy said early findings from Professor Cullen’s research were already being used in emergency departments in several regional Queensland hospitals including Gold Coast, Townsville, Gladstone and Nambour.

“This most recent phase of research, being conducted at the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital, has reduced the cost of diagnosis from $1600 per chest pain patient to about $600,’’ Ms Murphy said.

Dr Cullen said with Queensland’s population ageing, causing a 4 per cent annual increase in demand on hospital emergency departments, the research was vital.

“With Rapid Assessment of Cardiac Chest Pain, we can give back doctor and health resource hours to those who have more acute cases to treat,’’ she said.



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