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November 14, 1994

Costochondritis: A Prospective Analysis in an Emergency Department Setting

Author Affiliations

From the Rheumatology Section, Department of Medicine, Cabrini Medical Center, New York, NY, and Department of Medicine, New York Medical College, Valhalla.

Arch Intern Med. 1994;154(21):2466-2469. doi:10.1001/archinte.1994.00420210106012

Background:  Costochondritis (CC) is a common, but poorly understood condition among patients with chest wall pain. We have prospectively analyzed distinctive features of patients presenting to the emergency department with chest pain and CC.

Methods:  Patients with a chief complaint of chest pain, not due to trauma, fever, or malignancy, were prospectively evaluated for the presence of CC and compared with another chest pain group without CC.

Results:  Of 122 consecutive patients studied, 36 had CC (30%) and in 17 the pain induced reproduced the original one (15%). Women made up 69% of the patients with CC (vs 31% of control subjects) and Hispanics 47% (vs 24% of control subjects). Only three patients (8%) with CC met the American College of Rheumatology criteria for fibromyalgia, while none of the control subjects did. Widespread pain was more common in the CC group (42% vs 5%). The mean sedimentation rate in the CC group was 44±31 mm/h vs 41±31 mm/h in the control group. The acute myocardial infarction rate was 6% in the CC group vs 28% in the control group. Rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis were diagnosed in three and two patients, respectively, of 32 patients with CC cases. One year later, 11 (55%) of 21 patients with CC were still suffering from chest pain, but only one third still had definite CC.

Conclusions:  Costochondritis is common among patients with chest pain in an emergency department setting, with a higher frequency among women and Hispanics. It is associated with fibromyalgia in only a minority of cases. Patients with CC appear to have a lower frequency of acute myocardial infarction. Spontaneous resolution is seen in most cases at 1 year.(Arch Intern Med. 1994;154:2466-2469)

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