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J Am Board Fam Pract. 2004 Mar-Apr;17(2):114-26.

Panic plaques: panic disorder & coronary artery disease in patients with chest pain.

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  • 1Department of Family and Community Medicine, The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, San Antonio, TX 78229, USA.



The purpose of this systematic review was to identify characteristics of the chest pain associated with the presence of panic disorder, to determine the strength of the association between panic disorder and coronary artery disease (CAD), and to determine the association between panic disorder and known cardiovascular risk factors.


Potential studies were identified via computerized search using MEDLINE and PSYCINFO databases, and review of bibliographies. MeSH headings used included "panic disorder" with "chest pain," "panic disorder" with "coronary disease or cardiovascular disorders or heart disorders," and "panic disorder" with "cholesterol or essential hypertension or tobacco smoking." Studies had to base their diagnosis of panic disorder on criteria from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th Edition, and objective criteria of CAD and risk factors had to be used. Only case-control and cohort studies were included.


The relative risk of panic disorder in patients with nonanginal chest pain is 2.03 [confidence interval (CI), 1.41 to 2.92]. Concerning the relationship between panic disorder and CAD, studies conducted in emergency departments found a relative risk of 1.25 (CI, 0.87 to 1.80). However, there is an inverse relationship between the prevalence of CAD in the study and the prevalence of panic disorder among the patients with CAD (r = -.469, P =.086). Panic disorder has also been linked to cardiac risk factors.


Panic disorder and CAD are correlated in noncardiology settings, and recurrent panic attacks may actually cause CAD. Recognition of either condition should lead the family physician to consider the other, resulting in increased vigilance and possible screening.

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