Study objective: We examine the effect of a protocol for panic disorder recognition and treatment initiation on medication initiation rates and medication continuation rates at 1- and 3-month follow-up.
Methods: Enrolled participants, all at low to moderate risk for acute coronary syndrome, completed a 6-hour emergency department chest pain evaluation and panic disorder screen. Participants who had results positive for panic disorder completed the Panic Disorder Module of the Structured Clinical Interview (SCID) for the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, fourth edition (DSM-IV) by the research psychiatrist and the treating emergency physician, each blinded to the other's rating. Participants with panic disorder were randomized to either paroxetine initiation at 20 mg/d for 1 month or usual care with telephone follow-up at 3 months.
Results: Fifty (32%) of 156 enrolled participants met criteria for panic disorder. All 25 (100%) participants in the paroxetine group initiated treatment, compared with 6 (24%) in the usual care group initiating any form of treatment (P =.006, relative risk [RR] 2.58, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.20 to 5.58). Fourteen (56%) participants continued paroxetine treatment for at least 1 month, and at 3 months, 9 (36%) continued on some antipanic medication, compared with 2 (8%) for the usual care group (P =.05, RR 3.57, 95% CI 0.84 to 15.8).
Conclusion: Panic disorder is common and severe in this sample of patients with chest pain. A screening measure and a brief (5-minute) structured interview allowed emergency physicians with no extra training to reliably diagnose panic disorder and initiate pharmacologic treatment.