OBJECTIVES To analyse the implementation, applicability and accuracy of the pretest probability calculation provided by NICE clinical guideline 95 for decision making about imaging in patients with chest pain of recent onset. METHODS The definitions for pretest probability calculation in the original Duke clinical score and the NICE guideline were compared. We also calculated the agreement and disagreement in pretest probability and the resulting imaging and management groups based on individual patient data from the Collaborative Meta-Analysis of Cardiac CT (CoMe-CCT). RESULTS 4,673 individual patient data from the CoMe-CCT Consortium were analysed. Major differences in definitions in the Duke clinical score and NICE guideline were found for the predictors age and number of risk factors. Pretest probability calculation using guideline criteria was only possible for 30.8 % (1,439/4,673) of patients despite availability of all required data due to ambiguity in guideline definitions for risk factors and age groups. Agreement regarding patient management groups was found in only 70 % (366/523) of patients in whom pretest probability calculation was possible according to both models. CONCLUSIONS Our results suggest that pretest probability calculation for clinical decision making about cardiac imaging as implemented in the NICE clinical guideline for patients has relevant limitations. KEY POINTS • Duke clinical score is not implemented correctly in NICE guideline 95. • Pretest probability assessment in NICE guideline 95 is impossible for most patients. • Improved clinical decision making requires accurate pretest probability calculation. • These refinements are essential for appropriate use of cardiac CT.