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The Medical Literature
April 7, 1999

Users' Guides to the Medical LiteratureXV. How to Use an Article About Disease Probability for Differential Diagnosis

JAMA. 1999;281(13):1214-1219. doi:10.1001/jama.281.13.1214

You are an experienced clinician working at a hospital emergency department. One morning, a 33-year-old man presents with palpitations. He describes the new onset of episodes of fast, regular chest pounding, which come on gradually, last 1 to 2 minutes, and occur several times a day. He reports no relation of symptoms to activities and no change in exercise tolerance. He is very anxious and tells you he fears heart disease. He has no other symptoms, no personal or family history of heart disease, and takes no medications. His heart rate is 90 bpm and regular, and physical examination of his eyes, thyroid gland, lungs, and heart is normal. His 12-lead electrocardiogram is normal, without arrhythmia or signs of pre-excitation.