Traditional test for predicting heart disease found unreliable
For years, emergency physicians have used nitroglycerin as a method for identifying heart disease
as a cause of chest pain. If a patient arrives at an emergency department complaining of chest pain, and
a nitroglycerin pill under the tongue relieves the pain within a few minutes, the likely diagnosis is
coronary artery disease.
A study by researchers from the UC Davis Health System Department of Emergency Medicine and the Division
of Cardiology found that chest pain reduction from nitroglycerin is not a reliable indicator of heart
disease. The study was published in the Annals of Emergency Medicine.
Deborah B. Diercks, assistant professor of emergency medicine, was the principal investigator. Co-investigators
on the study were J. Douglas Kirk, associate professor of emergency medicine; Ezra A. Amsterdam, professor
of cardiology; and Elizabeth Boghos and Hector Gonzales, undergraduate research assistants in the emergency
"Our study provides another piece of evidence that pain relief with nitroglycerin should not be
used to determine if a patient's chest pain is from a cardiac source," said Diercks.