purpose: To determine whether the experience of the physician (as measured by postgraduate training level or time during the academic year) who performs the initial evaluation affects the triage of patients with acute chest pain. patients and methods: Prospective data on the presenting clinical features, initial triage, final diagnosis, and complications were collected for 7,857 patients who presented to the emergency rooms of three teaching hospitals, including 1,118 (14%) with acute myocardial infarction (AMI), 2,477 (32%) with acute ischemic heart disease (AIHD) (i.e., AMI or unstable angina), and 335 (4%) with major complications. The experience of the evaluating physicians, who were in their first three postgraduate years in 93% of cases, was measured in three ways: (1) postgraduate training level, (2) month during the academic year, and (3) number of patients with acute chest pain previously evaluated. Multivariate logistic regression analyses that adjusted for hospital site and 20 clinical variables estimated the odds ratios for admission to the coronary care unit (CCU) and hospital associated with each incremental increase in physician experience. results: With more experience (as measured by postgraduate training level or time during the academic year), the sensitivity of physicians for admitting patients with AMI, AIHD, or major complications to the hospital increased. For example, each incremental increase in postgraduate training level carried a 1.4 increase in the adjusted odds ratio for admission of a patient with AIHD to the hospital (p <0.05), corresponding to an increase in the probability of admission from 93% to 97%. However, increasing physician experience was also associated with an elevated false-positive rate in admitting patients without these diagnoses to the CCU and hospital. Thus, each incremental increase in postgraduate training level carried a 1.2 increase in the adjusted odds ratio for admission of a patient without AIHD to the CCU and hospital (p <0.005), corresponding to an increase in the probability of admission from 34% to 47%. By receiver operating characteristic curve (ROC) regression analyses, these changes in triage patterns were consistent with movement along a single ROC curve, rather than a shift to a new or better ROC curve. conclusions: As the experience of the physician who performed the initial evaluation increased, there was a lower threshold for admitting all patients with and without AM, AIHD, or major complications to the CCU and hospital without a detectable improvement in diagnostic accuracy.
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