Acute Coronary Syndrome in Octogenarians: Expect the Unexpected

Samuel T. Parnell, Austin T. Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Background: Ischemic heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States and the world. Advanced age is the strongest risk factor for ischemic heart disease and the best independent predictor for poor outcomes after acute coronary syndrome (ACS). Elderly patients are at high risk for ACS, and numerous studies have shown that octogenarians in particular experience increased morbidity and mortality compared to younger patients. Case Report: We describe a case of an 83-year-old woman who presented to the emergency department with a chief complaint of sore throat and was found to have a non-ST elevation myocardial infarction (NSTEMI) and was treated successfully with primary coronary intervention (PCI). Why Should an Emergency Physician Be Aware of This?: Chest pain is a common presenting symptom for ACS, but elderly patients with MI are more likely to present with other chief complaints. Only 40% of patients in the National Registry of Myocardial Infarction database ≥ 85 years of age had chest pain on initial presentation. Recent studies comparing invasive therapy (PCI or coronary artery bypass graft) with optimal medical therapy for patients > 75 years of age diagnosed with NSTEMI have reported a reduced risk of death and major cardiac events with invasive therapy. Emergency physicians should have a high level of suspicion for ACS in octogenarians, even in those presenting without chest pain. Timely diagnosis and management can improve morbidity and mortality in these patients.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)e27-e30
JournalJournal of Emergency Medicine
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • ACS
  • acute coronary syndrome
  • chest pain equivalent
  • coronary artery disease
  • geriatric emergencies
  • myocardial infarction
  • non-ST elevation myocardial infarction
  • octogenarians
  • silent myocardial infarction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Emergency Medicine


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