Objective: (a) To assess whether data on prevalence and natural course of unexplained chest pain are similar to previous results reported for patients with unexplained chest pain in foreign literature; (b) to find biographical or medical record variables predictive of continuing pain.
Design: Retrospective research of medical records.
Setting: University Medical Centre and Diaconessenhuis (peripheral hospital), Leiden, the Netherlands.
Method: Medical records of patients who had been newly referred between 1992 and 1995 to the cardiac outpatient clinic were screened on the discharge diagnosis: unexplained chest pain. Patients were approached by mail with a questionnaire, inquiring about duration, frequency, intensity, functional limitations and medical consumption with regard to their unexplained chest pain.
Results: In 39.8% (1053/2648) of the patients, no explanation was found for their complaints. After 12 and 24 months, 72% and 56% respectively reported still having complaints. 37% experienced limitations in daily activities at the time of the investigation. Sex and duration of pain before visiting the cardiologist were predictors of the persistence of chest pain. 31% of the patients did consult their general practitioner at least once more after the discharge by the cardiologist.
Conclusion: Unexplained chest pain is a common complaint of patients visiting an outpatient clinic for cardiology and often persists. The present results are largely similar to those reported in foreign literature.