Unexpected Cardiac MRI Findings in Patients Presenting to the Emergency Department for Possible Acute Coronary Syndrome

Cole E. Ziegler*, David M. Painter, Joseph B. Borawski, Raymond J. Kim, Han W. Kim, Alexander T. Limkakeng

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Background: Stress cardiac magnetic resonance imaging (CMR) has become increasingly used in patients presenting to the emergency department (ED) with symptoms concerning for acute coronary syndrome (ACS). We hypothesized that CMR detects a number of alternative diagnoses (diagnoses other than ACS that could explain symptoms) and incidental findings in patients presenting to the ED for potential ACS. Methods: We prospectively enrolled adult patients who presented to an academic ED from 2011 to 2015 for possible ACS and subsequently had an adenosine stress perfusion CMR as part of their diagnostic evaluation. All medical charts were reviewed to verify accurate prospective data collection and to collect follow-up data. Results: A total of 391 patients were included. On stress CMR, abnormalities attributable to coronary artery disease (CAD) were found in 106 (27.1%) of patients. Previously undiagnosed moderate to severe valvular disease was the most common non-CAD cardiac finding, occurring in 20 (5.1%) cases. Other alternative diagnoses were rare with 7 cases of cardiomyopathy, 1 case of aortic aneurysm, 1 case of aortic dissection, 1 case of acute myocarditis, 3 cases of pericarditis, and 2 cases of moderate pleural effusion. Cardiac incidental findings were rare. Extracardiac incidental findings were found in 79 patients (20.2%). Only 18.6% of the patients recommended for follow-up imaging had this completed within 1 year after CMR. Conclusions: This experience suggests that stress CMR is useful in not only diagnosing symptomatic CAD but also potentially important non-CAD-related disease. These factors may impact their use in ED-based ACS workups.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)167-171
Number of pages5
JournalCritical Pathways in Cardiology
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 Sep 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • acute coronary syndrome
  • cardiac magnetic resonance imaging
  • emergency department
  • observation unit


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