UMEM Educational Pearls

Category: Med-Legal

Title: Chest Pain Documentation

Keywords: Chest Pain (PubMed Search)

Posted: 12/15/2008 by Rob Rogers, MD (Updated: 7/22/2024)
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There is clearly no way you can document everything on a chest pain chart. However, there are some pretty important things that should be on the chart.

Some key things to consider documenting:

  • Why you did not work up someone's chest pain, i.e. what would you want your chart to look like if the patient went home to have an MI and an attorney looked at your chart? You don't think a ECG is warranted? Fine. Just document why. The chart tells all.
  • Documentation of risk factors for the three deadly causes of chest pain: ACS/MI, aortic dissection, and PE. Documenting these is proof you were thinking about a differential diagnosis.
  • Documenting key chest pain physical exam findings and pertinent negatives-Documenting "legs normal, no DVT" is proof you were thinking about PE the whole time, even if it isn't in your medical decision making section. Writing "no diastolic murmur" is proof you thought about aortic dissection. These kinds of documentation pearls will serve to make the chart defensible. Obviously, you should perform this part of the exam and not just write it on the chart.
  • Documentation of why you didn't go after ACS, aortic dissection, or PE. We will all make mistakes in our careers. And remember, we can't diagnose every MI, dissection, and PE. But, remember that you want your chart to show that you thought about these bad boys and WHY you didn't go after them. What is frequently missing on charts of missed MI, AD, and PE is exactly this!


1. Daniel Sullivan, M.D.

2. The great Amal Mattu, M.D.

3. Larry Weiss, M.D.