Noncardiac chest pain: evaluation and treatment

Gastroenterol Clin North Am. 2003 Jun;32(2):531-52. doi: 10.1016/s0889-8553(03)00029-3.


Noncardiac chest pain is a heterogeneous condition for which diagnosis and treatment are challenging. Research is needed to streamline evaluation to minimize unnecessary invasive testing and costs. Chest pain clinics to assess chest pain patients are popular in the United States and may be of value in reassuring patients and reducing presentation to hospital; however, recently this has been contended [111]. Options for the effective treatment of NCCP are dependent on the risk of an adverse outcome and the cost-effectiveness of the management algorithm that is followed. Most (64%) of those presenting to the emergency department with chest pain are classified as having NCCP [112,113]. GERD is probably the most important cause and application of a test of acid suppression with a high-dose PPI for 1 to 2 weeks seems to be a useful diagnostic tool. In those patients with GERD-related NCCP, short-term and potentially long-term therapy with a PPI (commonly higher than standard dose) is required to alleviate symptoms. Esophageal dysmotility is relatively uncommon in patients with NCCP and evaluation by esophageal manometry might be limited to rule out achalasia. Chest wall syndromes are common but probably often missed. Many patients with NCCP have psychologic or psychiatric abnormalities, as either the cause or an effect of the chest pain, but diagnosis here depends on techniques not applied easily in the acute situation. Pain modulators seem to offer significant improvement in chest pain symptoms for non-GERD-related NCCP. Finally, trials of management strategies to deal with this problem are required urgently, because the earlier discharge of patients with NCCP may exacerbate the problem. Fig. 2 provides a flow chart for diagnosis and treatment of NCCP.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Chest Pain / etiology*
  • Chest Pain / physiopathology
  • Chest Pain / therapy
  • Diagnostic Techniques, Digestive System
  • Drug Therapy, Combination
  • Gastroesophageal Reflux / complications
  • Gastroesophageal Reflux / diagnosis*
  • Gastroesophageal Reflux / psychology
  • Gastroesophageal Reflux / therapy*
  • Humans