Costochondritis. A prospective analysis in an emergency department setting

Arch Intern Med. 1994 Nov 14;154(21):2466-9. doi: 10.1001/archinte.154.21.2466.


Background: Costochondritis (CC) is a common, but poorly understood condition among patients with chest wall pain. We have prospectively analyzed distinctive features of patients presenting to the emergency department with chest pain and CC.

Methods: Patients with a chief complaint of chest pain, not due to trauma, fever, or malignancy, were prospectively evaluated for the presence of CC and compared with another chest pain group without CC.

Results: Of 122 consecutive patients studied, 36 had CC (30%) and in 17 the pain induced reproduced the original one (15%). Women made up 69% of the patients with CC (vs 31% of control subjects) and Hispanics 47% (vs 24% of control subjects). Only three patients (8%) with CC met the American College of Rheumatology criteria for fibromyalgia, while none of the control subjects did. Widespread pain was more common in the CC group (42% vs 5%). The mean sedimentation rate in the CC group was 44 +/- 31 mm/h vs 41 +/- 31 mm/h in the control group. The acute myocardial infarction rate was 6% in the CC group vs 28% in the control group. Rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis were diagnosed in three and two patients, respectively, of 32 patients with CC cases. One year later, 11 (55%) of 21 patients with CC were still suffering from chest pain, but only one third still had definite CC.

Conclusions: Costochondritis is common among patients with chest pain in an emergency department setting, with a higher frequency among women and Hispanics. It is associated with fibromyalgia in only a minority of cases. Patients with CC appear to have a lower frequency of acute myocardial infarction. Spontaneous resolution is seen in most cases at 1 year.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Chest Pain / etiology
  • Chronic Disease
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prospective Studies
  • Tietze's Syndrome / complications
  • Tietze's Syndrome / diagnosis*