Background: Between 10% and 30% of patients with symptoms similar to angina and sufficient to justify cardiac catheterization are found to have normal coronary angiograms. Treatment of patients with chest pain with no apparent cardiac cause is a major clinical problem. Our hypothesis was that sertraline would reduce the severity of pain in patients with chest pain of noncardiac origin.
Methods and results: This was a single-site, double-blind, placebo-controlled study of the efficacy, tolerability, and safety of sertraline in the treatment of noncardiac chest pain in outpatients. Thirty patients were enrolled in the study. After 1 week of single-blind placebo washout, patients were randomly assigned in a double-blind fashion either to drug or placebo. The Beck Depression Inventory was administered at baseline and at completion of study. Daily pain diaries (visual analogue scale, rating pain on a scale of 1 to 10) were selfadministered and evaluated at baseline and at follow-up visits. Statistical measures were performed with an intention-to-treat approach. Patients who received sertraline over the course of the study showed a statistically significant reduction in pain compared with those who were receiving placebo.
Conclusions: The use of sertraline in patients with noncardiac chest pain produced clinically significant reduction of daily pain. These results suggest the need for further studies of the efficacy and tolerability of sertraline and other selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors in the long-term management of noncardiac chest pain.