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Am Heart J. 1984 Jul;108(1):67-72.

Unimproved chest pain in patients with minimal or no coronary disease: a behavioral phenomenon.


Patients with chest pain and minimal or no coronary disease have a good prognosis for survival, yet many continue to have pain. In our experience with 821 medically treated patients there were three cardiac deaths (0.3%) and two nonfatal myocardial infarctions (0.2%) in the first year after angiography, which had revealed insignificant (less than 75% narrowing of the luminal diameter) or no coronary artery stenosis. In a subset of 548 patients selected with no apparent systematic difference from the inception cohort of 821 patients, there was complete absence of chest pain in 178 (33%) patients but 155 (28%) had similar or worse pain. From an analysis of clinical history and catheterization data entered in a stepwise logistic regression function, unimproved chest pain was significantly associated with female sex (p = 0.01) and an index of five chest pain descriptors (p = 0.0005). After adding selected behavioral variables available for a representative sample of 217 patients, a high hypochondriasis score (scale I from the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory) became the strongest determinant of continued pain (p less than 0.0001). In our experience, an exaggerated preoccupation with personal health is prospectively associated with continued chest pain in patients with minimal or no coronary disease.

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