Experimental pain and psychologic status of patients with chest pain with normal coronary arteries or ischemic heart disease

Am Heart J. 2001 Jul;142(1):63-71. doi: 10.1067/mhj.2001.115794.


Background: The cause of chest pain in patients with a normal coronary angiogram (NCA) remains an enigma. Also, it is unclear whether psychosocial factors play a role in the etiology of chest pain in these patients. The objective of the current study was to compare psychosocial factors, clinical pain, and responses to experimental pain in NCA patients, patients with ischemic heart disease (IHD), and healthy control subjects.

Methods: Pain intensity, threshold, and tolerance to cold pressor pain were assessed in 30 NCA patients, 30 IHD patients, and 30 healthy control subjects matched for age, sex, and sociodemographic factors. All subjects completed questionnaires measuring a number of psychosocial factors, including stress, anxiety, depression, extroversion, and neuroticism. NCA and IHD patients also completed questionnaires assessing clinical pain responses and pain-coping strategies.

Results: With the exception of a lower tolerance to cold pressor pain of IHD patients (P <.05), no significant differences were found between NCA and IHD patients with respect to other clinical pain measures, psychosocial measures, pain-coping strategies, and other pain-related behaviors. Healthy control subjects differed significantly (P <.05) from both IHD and NCA patients with respect to maximum cold pressor pain, depression, and state anxiety and from IHD patients with respect to intensity of cold pressor pain, threshold to cold pressor pain, and perceived stress.

Conclusions: The results suggest that higher scores on various psychosocial measures in both chest pain groups are related to their pain, rather than being the cause of pain, and do not support a psychogenic explanation for chest pain in the presence of normal coronary arteries.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Chest Pain / etiology
  • Chest Pain / psychology*
  • Chi-Square Distribution
  • Cold Temperature
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Myocardial Ischemia / complications
  • Myocardial Ischemia / psychology*
  • Pain Measurement
  • Pain Threshold
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Surveys and Questionnaires