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Swiss Med Wkly. 2008 Jun 14;138(23-24):340-7. doi: 2008/23/smw-12123.

Chest pain in daily practice: occurrence, causes and management.

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Institute of General Medicine, University of Lausanne, Switzerland.



We assessed the occurrence and aetiology of chest pain in primary care practice. These features differ between primary and emergency care settings, where most previous studies have been performed.


59 GPs in western Switzerland recorded all consecutive cases presenting with chest pain. Clinical characteristics, laboratory tests and other investigations as well as the diagnoses remaining after 12 months of follow-up were systematically registered.


Among 24,620 patients examined during a total duration of 300 weeks of observation, 672 (2.7%) presented with chest pain (52% female, mean age 55 +/- 19(SD)). Most cases, 442 (1.8%), presented new symptoms and in 356 (1.4%) it was the reason for consulting. Over 40 ailments were diagnosed: musculoskeletal chest pain (including chest wall syndrome) (49%), cardiovascular (16%), psychogenic (11%), respiratory (10%), digestive (8%), miscellaneous (2%) and without diagnosis (3%). The three most prevalent diseases were: chest wall syndrome (43%), coronary artery disease (12%) and anxiety (7%). Unstable angina (6), myocardial infarction (4) and pulmonary embolism (2) were uncommon (1.8%). Potentially serious conditions including cardiac, respiratory and neoplasic diseases accounted for 20% of cases. A large number of laboratory tests (42%), referral to a specialist (16%) or hospitalisation (5%) were performed. Twentyfive patients died during follow-up, of which twelve were for a reason directly associated with thoracic pain [cancer (7) and cardiac causes (5)].


Thoracic pain was present in 2.7% of primary care consultations. Chest wall syndrome pain was the main aetiology. Cardio - vascular emergencies were uncommon. However chest pain deserves full consideration because of the occurrence of potentially serious conditions.

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