Exercise and rest thallium scintigraphy and exercise electrocardiography were performed after discharge in 158 patients aged less than 76 years admitted with chest pain in whom a suspected diagnosis of acute myocardial infarction had not been confirmed. During a follow up of 12-24 months (median 14 months) there were 10 cardiac events--that is, non-fatal acute myocardial infarction or cardiac deaths. Transient thallium defects and abnormal ST response (that is ST segment deviation or uninterpretable ST segment) during exercise were correlated significantly with an unfavourable prognosis. One hundred and four patients with neither of these characteristics were at lower risk of a cardiac event than the 19 patients with both of these characteristics. The percentages of patients in these two groups without a cardiac event after one year were 98.1 and 78.8 respectively. Thallium scintigraphy, alone or in combination with exercise electrocardiography, can be used to identify groups at high and low risk of future cardiac events, in patients with chest pain in whom acute myocardial infarction is suspected but not found.
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