Psychiatric disorders in medical outpatients complaining of palpitations.
OBJECTIVE: To determine the prevalence of psychiatric disorders in ambulatory patients undergoing Holter monitoring to evaluate palpitations. DESIGN: Patients referred for 24-hour ambulatory electrocardiographic (ECG) monitoring were studied with a structured diagnostic interview and self-report questionnaires prior to monitoring. SETTING: Holter laboratory of a large academic medical center. PATIENTS AND OTHER PARTICIPANTS: One hundred forty-five consecutive patients complaining of palpitations and 70 asymptomatic non-patient volunteers. OUTCOME MEASURES: DSM-III-R psychiatric diagnoses. RESULTS: Forty-five percent (44.8%) of the participants had at least one lifetime anxiety or depressive disorder and 24.8% had at least one current (one month) disorder. The lifetime prevalence of panic disorder was 27.6%, and that of major depression was 20.8%. Current prevalence rates showed a similar pattern; the current prevalence of panic disorder was 18.6%. Panic disorder and somatization disorder symptoms were significantly more prevalent in the palpitation group than in the general medical clinic at the same hospital. Patients with a psychiatric diagnosis were more likely to report cardiac symptoms during monitoring than were those without psychiatric disorder, and more commonly described their symptoms as "pounding" and reported faintness, lightheadedness, and vertigo. Although cardiac histories and ECG results were no more serious, the patients with psychiatric diagnoses rated their overall health status as significantly worse. CONCLUSIONS: Almost half of palpitation patients referred for Holter monitoring have a psychiatric disorder. More than a fourth have lifetime panic disorder and a fifth have had panic attacks in the month before monitoring.
Barsky, AJ; Cleary, PD; Coeytaux, RR; Ruskin, JN
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