Background: Patients with recurrent episodes of non-cardiac chest pain (NCCP) may suffer from cardiac anxiety and avoidance behavior, leading to increased healthcare utilization. These patients might benefit from help and support to evaluate the perception and management of their chest pain.
Objective: To test the feasibility of a short guided Internet-delivered CBT intervention and the effects on chest pain, cardiac anxiety, fear of body sensations and depressive symptoms in patients with NCCP compared to usual care.
Methods: A pilot randomized controlled study was conducted. Fifteen patients, nine men and six women with a median age of 66 years (range 22-76), were randomly assigned to either intervention (n=7) or control (n=8) group. Patients had recurrent episodes of non-cardiac chest pain and suffered from cardiac anxiety and/or fear of body sensations. The intervention consisted of a four-session guided Internet-delivered CBT program containing psychoeducation, physical activity, and relaxation. The control group received usual care. All patients completed a web-based questionnaire on socio-demographic variables, chest pain frequency, cardiac anxiety, fear of body sensations, and depressive symptoms.
Results: Five out of the seven patients in the intervention group completed all sessions as planned and two joined only parts of the program. The program was perceived as userfriendly with understandable language, adequate and varied content, and manageable homework assignments. The patients were engaged in the program for about 60 minutes per day and about 22 minutes’ therapist time was required to guide, support and give feedback to each patient through the program. Participating in the program, particularly being guided and supported, empowered and motivated many of the patients to be active and complete the program. In general, patients in both intervention and control groups improved with regard to chest pain frequency, cardiac anxiety, fear of body sensations, and depressive symptoms, but there were no significant differences between the groups.
Conclusions: A short guided Internet-delivered CBT program was feasible. Patients in both intervention and control groups improved with regard to chest pain frequency, cardiac anxiety, fear of body sensations, and depressive symptoms, but no significant differences were found between the groups. Patients should be followed-up for longer periods to measure the long-term effects of the intervention.
Cardiac anxiety; cognitive behavioral therapy; fear of body sensations; Internet-delivered; non-cardiac chest pain; randomized controlled study