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J Psychosom Res. 2011 Feb;70(2):117-23. doi: 10.1016/j.jpsychores.2010.09.013. Epub 2010 Dec 3.

Short-term cognitive behavioral therapy for non-cardiac chest pain and benign palpitations: a randomized controlled trial.

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Department of Psychiatry, Molde Hospital, Molde, Norway.



Many patients with noncardiac chest pain or benign palpitations have poor prognosis in terms of symptom persistence, limitations in everyday activities, and reduced health-related quality of life (HRQOL). The aim of the study was to compare a three-session manualized cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) intervention with normal care for patients with noncardiac chest pain or benign palpitations in a randomized controlled trial.


Patients with persistent complaints six months after a negative evaluation at a cardiological outpatient clinic were invited to participate. Of the 94 eligible patients, 40 agreed to participate and were randomly assigned to either an intervention or control group. Patients in the intervention group received three manualized sessions with CBT, including one physical activity exposure session. The control group received usual care from their general practitioner.


There were significantly larger improvements in the treatment group regarding fear of bodily sensations, avoidance of physical activity, depression and some domains of HRQOL at the end of treatment, and at three- and 12-month follow-up. A substantial proportion (about three-quarters) of the intervention effects on depression and avoidance of physical activity could be attributed to (was mediated by) the large reduction in catastrophic interpretations of bodily sensations.


A three-session program of manualized CBT, including exposure to physical activity, was effective treatment for patients with noncardiac chest pain and benign palpitations up to the 12-month follow-up.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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