Screening emergency room patients with atypical chest pain for depression and panic disorder

Int J Psychiatry Med. 1988;18(4):315-23. doi: 10.2190/9hj2-vk0h-xjyg-mkq6.


In response to recent reports relating atypical chest pain to normal coronary arteries and to various types of psychopathology, we developed a pilot study to investigate 1) the prevalence of depression and panic disorder among patients presenting to an emergency room with atypical chest pain, and 2) what the likelihood is of an emergency room physician recognizing the psychosocial factor. Of forty-nine subjects screened, 39 percent scored positively for depressive syndrome on the Center for Epidemiological Studies-Depression rating scale, 43 percent met criteria for panic attack and 16 percent met criteria for panic disorder by DSM-III. Although thirty subjects (61%) screened positively for depression or panic attack, only one received a psychiatric diagnosis of any kind. This pilot study suggests: 1) that the relationship between chest pain and psychopathology in emergency room patients deserves further rigorous study; 2) that depression and panic attacks in association with atypical chest pain may be underdiagnosed by the emergency room physician; and 3) that self-report screening measures as an aid to diagnosis in this population need to be more closely investigated.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Angina Pectoris / psychology
  • Chest Pain / psychology*
  • Coronary Disease / psychology
  • Depressive Disorder / psychology*
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Emergency Service, Hospital*
  • Fear*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neurocirculatory Asthenia / psychology*
  • Panic*
  • Psychological Tests
  • Referral and Consultation