Applications of machine learning to undifferentiated chest pain in the emergency department: A systematic review

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BACKGROUND: Chest pain is amongst the most common reason for presentation to the emergency department (ED). There are many causes of chest pain, and it is important for the emergency physician to quickly and accurately diagnose life threatening causes such as acute myocardial infarction (AMI). Multiple clinical decision tools have been developed to assist clinicians in risk stratifying patients with chest. There is growing recognition that machine learning (ML) will have a significant impact on the practice of medicine in the near future and may assist with diagnosis and risk stratification. This systematic review aims to evaluate how ML has been applied to adults presenting to the ED with undifferentiated chest pain and assess if ML models show improved performance when compared to physicians or current risk stratification techniques.

METHODS AND FINDINGS: We conducted a systematic review of journal articles that applied a ML technique to an adult patient presenting to an emergency department with undifferentiated chest pain. Multiple databases were searched from inception through to November 2020. In total, 3361 articles were screened, and 23 articles were included. We did not conduct a metanalysis due to a high level of heterogeneity between studies in both their methods, and reporting. The most common primary outcomes assessed were diagnosis of acute myocardial infarction (AMI) (12 studies), and prognosis of major adverse cardiovascular event (MACE) (6 studies). There were 14 retrospective studies and 5 prospective studies. Four studies reported the development of a machine learning model retrospectively then tested it prospectively. The most common machine learning methods used were artificial neural networks (14 studies), random forest (6 studies), support vector machine (5 studies), and gradient boosting (2 studies). Multiple studies achieved high accuracy in both the diagnosis of AMI in the ED setting, and in predicting mortality and composite outcomes over various timeframes. ML outperformed existing risk stratification scores in all cases, and physicians in three out of four cases. The majority of studies were single centre, retrospective, and without prospective or external validation. There were only 3 studies that were considered low risk of bias and had low applicability concerns. Two studies reported integrating the ML model into clinical practice.

CONCLUSIONS: Research on applications of ML for undifferentiated chest pain in the ED has been ongoing for decades. ML has been reported to outperform emergency physicians and current risk stratification tools to diagnose AMI and predict MACE but has rarely been integrated into practice. Many studies assessing the use of ML in undifferentiated chest pain in the ED have a high risk of bias. It is important that future studies make use of recently developed standardised ML reporting guidelines, register their protocols, and share their datasets and code. Future work is required to assess the impact of ML model implementation on clinical decision making, patient orientated outcomes, and patient and physician acceptability.

TRIAL REGISTRATION: International Prospective Register of Systematic Reviews registration number: CRD42020184977.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0252612
JournalPLoS One
Issue number8 August
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2021


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