Anxiety about anxiety: A survey of emergency department provider beliefs and practices regarding anxiety-associated low risk chest pain

Paul I. Musey, John A. Lee, Cassandra A. Hall, Jeffrey A. Kline

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Background: Approximately 80% of patients presenting to emergency departments (ED) with chest pain do not have any true cardiopulmonary emergency such as acute coronary syndrome (ACS). However, psychological contributors such as anxiety are thought to be present in up to 58%, but often remain undiagnosed leading to chronic chest pain and ED recidivism. Methods: To evaluate ED provider beliefs and their usual practices regarding the approach and disposition of patients with low risk chest pain associated with anxiety, we constructed a 22-item survey using a modified Delphi technique. The survey was administered to a convenience sample of ED providers attending the 2016 American College of Emergency Physicians Scientific Assembly in Las Vegas. Results: Surveys were completed by 409 emergency medicine providers from 46 states and 7 countries with a wide range of years of experience and primary practice environment (academic versus community centers). Respondents estimated that 30% of patients presenting to the ED with chest pain thought to be low risk for ACS have anxiety or panic as the primary cause but they directly communicate this belief to only 42% of these patients and provide discharge instructions to 48%. Only 39% of respondents reported adequate hospital resources to ensure follow-up. Community-based providers reported more adequate follow-up for these patients than their academic center colleagues (46% vs. 34%; p = 0.015). Most providers (82%) indicated that they wanted to have referral resources available to a specific clinic for further outpatient evaluation. Conclusion: Emergency Department providers believe approximately 30% of patients seeking emergency care for chest pain at low risk for ACS have anxiety as a primary problem, yet fewer than half discuss this concern or provide information to help the patient manage anxiety. This highlights an opportunity for patient centered communication.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number10
JournalBMC Emergency Medicine
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 14 2018


  • Anxiety
  • Chest pain
  • Emergency department
  • Psychological conditions

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Emergency Medicine

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