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J Psychosom Res. 2000 Apr-May;48(4-5):347-56.

Is panic disorder associated with coronary artery disease? A critical review of the literature.

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  • 1Research Center, Montreal Heart Institute, 5000 Belanger Street East, H1T 1C8, Montreal, Quebec, Canada.



To critically review existing literature examining the relationship between panic disorder (PD) and coronary artery disease (CAD). We specifically sought answers to the following questions: (1) What is the prevalence of PD in CAD patients? (2) What is the directionality of the relationship between PD and CAD? (3) What mechanisms may mediate the link between PD and CAD?


Medline and Psychlit searches were conducted using the following search titles: "panic disorder and coronary artery disease", "panic disorder and coronary heart disease", and "panic disorder and cardiovascular disease" for the years 1980-1998. The above search was also repeated replacing "panic disorder" with "panic attacks" for the same period.


The prevalence of PD in both cardiology out-patients and patients with documented CAD ranges from 10% to 50%. The association between PD and CAD appeared strongest in patients with atypical chest pain or symptoms that could not be fully explained by coronary status. There is some evidence linking phobic anxiety but not PD per se to CAD risk, but little evidence linking CAD to PD risk. Studies of the mechanisms linking PD to CAD are still in their infancy, but there is preliminary evidence linking PD to reduced heart rate variability (HRV) and myocardial ischemia, two pathophysiological mechanisms related to CAD.


PD is prevalent in CAD patients, but it is unclear the extent to which PD confers risk for and/or exacerbates CAD. Prospective research is needed to more firmly establish PD as a distinct risk factor for the development and progression of CAD. However, because many of the symptoms of PD mimic those of CAD, differentiating these disorders and learning how they may influence each other is imperative for clinical practice.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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