Assessment of chest pain onset and out-of-hospital delay using standardized interview questions: The REACT pilot study

Document Type


Date of Original Version



Objective: To determine the consistency of responses to a standardized 2-part 'key' question (Key-Q) about acute symptom onset in patients presenting with chest pain when measured using alternative questions (Qs) about symptom perception and decisions to seek treatment. Methods: A structured patient interview was performed at 3 university teaching hospitals and 1 community hospital. Convenience samples of adult patients presenting to these EDs with chest pain were asked specific questions related to their symptoms and recognition of illness. Information obtained included the 2- part Key-Q: 'What are the symptoms that brought you here today?' and 'When did those symptoms start?' The alternative Qs (in order of use) were as follows: Q1 = 'When did your very first symptom or sensation begin?'; Q2 = 'When did your symptoms lead you to think something was wrong or that you were ill?'; Q3 = 'When did your symptoms become serious enough for you to seek medical care?'; and Q4 = 'When did you actually call 9-1-1/emergency medical services (EMS) or go to the hospital?' The documented ED arrival time, demographic variables, and whether the patient arrived by ambulance were obtained from the medical record. Patients also were queried regarding potential barriers to seeking medical care and their cardiac risk factors. Results: Of the 135 patients surveyed, 9 were unsure of the date and time of symptom onset. For the 126 patients with analyzable data, the mean (±SD) patient age was 62 ± 16 years, and 59% were male. The general sequence of events reported from acute symptom onset until hospital care was Q1/Key-Q → Q2 → Q3 → Q4 → ED arrival. The median differences and interquartile ranges (IQRs) in minutes between Q times and the Key-Q response were: Q1 = 0 (0-0); Q2 = 30 (0-210); Q3 = 140 (30-720); Q4 = 265 (90-1,215); and ED arrival = 340 (120-1,230). The interval from the Key-Q response until calling 9-1-1/EMS or going to the hospital was shorter for those who used an ambulance and for those who did not consult a physician first. The interval from the Key-Q response until considering symptoms to be serious was shorter for those with a family history of heart disease, but longer for nonwhite patients. Conclusion: The Key-Q elicited a response recalled near the time of first symptoms and generally before the patient had concluded something was 'wrong or that he or she was ill.' Measurement of the out-of-hospital delay in chest pain patients using the Key-Q appears promising.

Publication Title, e.g., Journal

Academic Emergency Medicine