Abstract: The causes of musculoskeletal chest pain in patients admitted to hospital with suspected myocardial infarction

Eur J Intern Med. 2005 Oct;16(6):432-6.

How J, Volz G, Doe S, Heycock C, Hamilton J, Kelly C.

Department of Medicine, Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Sheriff Hill, Gateshead NE6 9SX, United Kingdom.

BACKGROUND: We wished to investigate the causes and characteristics of musculoskeletal chest pain leading to acute medical admission.

METHODS: We studied patients admitted to Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Gateshead, over a 10-week period. Patients with chest pain for which no acute cardiorespiratory cause was evident were identified and only included if they were tender on anteroposterior chest compression, thoracic spine rotation or firm sternal pressure. A detailed clinical history, anxiety and depression scale and a focussed physical examination were done to define the nature of musculoskeletal disease and their therapeutic requirements.

RESULTS: Fifty patients satisfying the inclusion criteria were admitted in the 10-week period and comprised 54% females with a mean age of 57 years (S.D.=13.48). Chest pain lasted for 1 h or less in 24 patients and was mostly anterior. Three distinct groups of patients were identified. Twelve patients had evidence of inflammatory joint disease, thirteen had fibromyalgia and half had regional syndromes with pain arising from the shoulder, neck, thoracic spine or sternocostal areas. Visual analogue scores were highest in fibromyalgia for pain, and highest in inflammatory arthritis for impaired mobility. Anxiety and depression scores were highest in fibromyalgia and lowest among patients with regional syndromes.

CONCLUSIONS: Musculoskeletal causes for acute chest pain are common and varied. Most patients have an identifiable cause of pain, but accurate diagnosis is needed to select the most appropriate intervention. Anxiety and depression are frequent, with much self-reported pain and dysfunction. However, all patients in this study had a disorder that was amenable to treatment and diagnosis. Management needs to be actively pursued in all patients.

PMID: 16198904 [PubMed – in process]

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