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J Clin Gastroenterol. 2002 Jan;34(1):6-14.

Noncardiac chest pain.

Author information

1
Department of Gastroenterology, Cleveland Clinic Florida, Weston, Florida 33331, USA. botomav@ccf.org

Abstract

GOALS:

Review of research directions in the etiology, evaluation, and treatment of patients with noncardiac chest pain. The author proposes a combined practical approach to noncardiac chest pain that incorporates these findings, which is useful in a clinical practice setting.

BACKGROUND:

Several major schools of thought have emerged in the etiology of noncardiac chest pain: acid reflux, motor disorder, altered pain threshold/hypersensitivity, and association with psychiatric dysfunction. There is significant overlap among these. Occult gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is more common than motor disorders and is found in 30% to 40% of these patients; a subset has hypersensitivity, with a normal pH profile. Esophageal motility testing and endoscopy have a more limited role than 24-hour pH testing. Impedance planimetry and balloon sensory provocative testing remain research tools. Provocative testing with hydrochloric acid or edrophonium is less helpful than pH monitoring. Gastroesophageal reflux disease-induced chest pain requires high-dose long-term proton pump inhibitors (PPIs): at least 4 to 8 weeks. Psychotropics are superior to placebo, both in patients with and without psychiatric dysfunction.

RESULTS:

The author found combined PPIs and psychotropics helpful in patients with esophageal hypersensitivity and GERD, although supporting data is scant.

CONCLUSIONS:

A brief 1-week high-dose PPI challenge, i.e., omeprazole test, may be cost-effective in a primary care setting. However, this approach may not be useful in a referral setting, where pH data and diary assessment of associated symptoms provide useful management help. A behavioral model approach, with early emphasis on patient education, integrated with physiologic data helps the most.

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