Noncardiac Chest Pain Misunderstood

Published Online: Tuesday, February 1, 2005

The economic, social, and functional burden of noncardiac chest pain (NCCP) is poorly understood. In a study recently published in Alimentary Pharmacology & Therapeutics (October 2004) by G.D. Eslick, MMS, and N.J. Talley, MD, 212 patients presenting with acute chest pain in a tertiary hospital emergency department were evaluated. NCCP was diagnosed in 64%, and cardiac chest pain (CCP) was diagnosed in 36%. The prevalence of NCCP was higher in men (54%) than in women (46%), increased in both sexes between the ages of 18 and 59, and declined in older age groups. NCCP was severe (affects lifestyle) in 32% of patients and moderate (does not affect lifestyle but cannot be ignored) in 41%. Proportions of patients seeking health care during the preceding 12 months were similar for NCCP (77%) and CCP (70%).

The frequency of physician consults was lower among NCCP than CCP patients. Men were more likely than women to seek medical consultation for NCCP. The most common reasons for seeking medical care were anxiety about symptoms, fear of a more serious condition, and severity of pain. The type of health care professional consulted was determined by the frequency and severity of reflux symptoms that accompanied chest pain.

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