Nearly half of patients with non-cardiac chest pain (NCCP) experience significant complaints after a negative cardiac evaluation, at considerable costs for society. Due to the lack of treatment capacity and low interest for psychological treatment among patients with somatic complaints, only a minority receive effective treatment. The aim of this study was to assess the feasibility and usefulness of internet-assisted cognitive behavioural therapy (I-CBT), including encouragement of physical activity for this condition. Ten patients with NCCP received a six-session I-CBT intervention with minimal support from a therapist. Questionnaires assessing cardiac anxiety, fear of bodily sensations, depression, interpretation of symptoms, frequency of chest pain and impact of chest pain symptoms were collected at baseline, post-treatment and at 3-month follow-up. Semi-structured interviews employing a phenomenological hermeneutic approach assessed the participants’ experience of the intervention. Quantitative results showed clear improvements in several measures both at end of treatment and at 3-month follow-up. The retention rate was 100% and client satisfaction was high. The intervention was feasible to implement in a cardiac setting. This setting made it easier for patients to accept a psychological approach. Qualitative interviews revealed that the participants felt respected and taken care of, and they obtained a better understanding of their chest pain and how to cope with it. This pilot study yielded promising results regarding feasibility, clinical effect and patient satisfaction from a brief I-CBT intervention for NCCP in a cardiac setting. These results indicate that a randomized controlled trial with a larger sample size is warranted.
Key learning aims
(1) Feasibility of internet-assisted cognitive behavioural therapy (I-CBT) for non-cardiac chest pain (NCCP).
(2) How NCCP patients experience I-CBT.
(3) Possible effects of I-CBT.
(4) How I-CBT can be delivered at the Cardiac Department.