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Am J Cardiol. 1988 Aug 1;62(4):209-13.

One-year psychosocial follow-up of patients with chest pain and angiographically normal coronary arteries.

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Veterans Administration Medical Center, Syracuse, New York 13210.


As many as 30% of patients with chest pain symptoms who are referred for arteriography are found to have normal coronary arteries. Research has shown that patients with anginal symptoms and normal coronary arteries score higher on neuroticism measurements (anxiety, depression and somatic concerns) at the time of catheterization than patients with anginal symptoms who have coronary artery disease. Research examining the cardiac course of chest pain patients with normal coronary arteries indicates that this is a nonprogressive disorder. Although follow-up studies of these patients report continued chest pain and diminished physical activity, these studies have ignored the psychologic status of the patients. Thus, it is not known whether their higher neuroticism scores at the time of catheterization persist following angiography or whether such elevated indexes of neuroticism are transient phenomena associated with precatheterization anticipatory stress. The present study examined 48 Veterans Administration Medical Center patients: 24 with anginal symptoms and normal coronary arteries and 24 with documented coronary artery disease. The patients completed a structured clinical interview and a set of psychologic inventories on the day before catheterization and 1 year later. The findings established continued high neuroticism scores among patients with anginal symptoms only and supported the findings of other investigators regarding continuing chest pain and restricted physical activity. The knowledge alone of benign coronary artery status resulted in virtually no change in the psychosocial status of these patients. Alternative treatment methods are discussed.

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