Axis I disorders in ER patients with atypical chest pain

Int J Psychiatry Med. 1991;21(1):37-46. doi: 10.2190/HFQ4-J41N-6M1E-MBN3.


To examine the contribution of psychopathology to emergency room (ER) visits for atypical chest pain, we administered two screening measures and the Structured Clinical Interview for DSM III-R (SCID) to thirty-five subjects within seventy-two hours of their ER visit. Follow-up SCID interviews were completed in thirty subjects at five to twelve months. Sixty percent of the sample had an initial Axis I diagnosis, predominately affective (34%) and anxiety (46%) disorders. Forty percent had multiple diagnoses initially. The most common diagnoses were panic disorder (31%) and major depression (23%). At follow-up 47 percent had Axis I diagnoses, 30 percent had multiple diagnoses, with only slightly decreases rates for panic disorder (27%) and major depression (17%). Many subjects had lost, gained, or switched diagnoses by follow-up, in spite of one consistent rater and a few subjects seeking treatment. ER physicians often do not recognize these psychiatric disorders in chest pain patients. The high risk of suicide in panic disorder and depression, and the high cost of disability in recurrent chest pain make it essential that ER physicians include these disorders in the differential of atypical chest pain.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Anxiety Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Anxiety Disorders / psychology
  • Chest Pain / psychology*
  • Depressive Disorder / diagnosis*
  • Depressive Disorder / psychology
  • Emergency Service, Hospital*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neurocirculatory Asthenia / diagnosis*
  • Personality Tests / statistics & numerical data
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales / statistics & numerical data*
  • Psychometrics