The evaluation of adolescent chest pain: a screening ECG or PSC-17?

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Abstract

Purpose of review

The present review offers an update on entities presenting as chest pain in the adolescent population. It discusses recently proposed tools and shared mental models used in primary and urgent care settings to evaluate chest pain, and their focus on identifying life-threatening processes. We consider whether the current practice may be improved by accounting for the increasingly recognized non-life-threatening causes of adolescent chest pain.

Recent findings

The present experiences and behaviors of adolescents have added new causes of chest pain to the work-up of this disquieting chief complaint. The initial approach to adolescent chest pain has classically focused on ruling out life-threatening entities, and current diagnostic algorithms offer systematic approaches with similar emphases. A growing body of literature on the nonlife-threatening causes of adolescent chest pain, often categorized as idiopathic, suggests a need to reevaluate our practice.

Summary

Adolescent chest pain is most often noncardiac and non-life threatening in nature, yet current diagnostic algorithms and evaluations emphasize identifying the exceptional case of cardiac chest pain. Familiarizing ourselves with the more common causes of chest pain and with our present approach to the evaluation of this particular chief complaint, may help us to better counsel our patients and avoid unnecessary use of valuable resources.

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