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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Gender differences in presentation and diagnosis of chest pain in primary care

Stefan Bösner1*, Jörg Haasenritter1, Maren A Hani1, Heidi Keller1, Andreas C Sönnichsen2, Konstantinos Karatolios3, Juergen R Schaefer3, Erika Baum1 and Norbert Donner-Banzhoff1

Author Affiliations

1 Department of General Practice/Family Medicine, University of Marburg, 35032 Marburg, Germany

2 Department of Family Medicine, Paracelsus University, 5020 Salzburg, Austria

3 Department of Cardiology, University of Marburg, 35032 Marburg, Germany

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BMC Family Practice 2009, 10:79  doi:10.1186/1471-2296-10-79

Published: 14 December 2009



Chest pain is a common complaint and reason for consultation in primary care. Research related to gender differences in regard to Coronary Heart Disease (CHD) has been mainly conducted in hospital but not in primary care settings. We aimed to analyse gender differences in aetiology and clinical characteristics of chest pain and to provide gender related symptoms and signs associated with CHD.


We included 1212 consecutive patients with chest pain aged 35 years and older attending 74 general practitioners (GPs). GPs recorded symptoms and findings of each patient and provided follow up information. An independent interdisciplinary reference panel reviewed clinical data of every patient and decided about the aetiology of chest pain at the time of patient recruitment. Multivariable regression analysis was performed to identify clinical predictors that help to rule in or out CHD in women and men.


Women showed more psychogenic disorders (women 11,2%, men 7.3%, p = 0.02), men suffered more from CHD (women 13.0%, men 17.2%, p = 0.04), trauma (women 1.8%, men 5.1%, p < 0.001) and pneumonia/pleurisy (women 1.3%, men 3.0%, p = 0.04) Men showed significantly more often chest pain localised on the right side of the chest (women 9.1%, men 25.0%, p = 0.01). For both genders known clinical vascular disease, pain worse with exercise and age were associated positively with CHD. In women pain duration above one hour was associated positively with CHD, while shorter pain durations showed an association with CHD in men. In women negative associations were found for stinging pain and in men for pain depending on inspiration and localised muscle tension.


We found gender differences in regard to aetiology, selected clinical characteristics and association of symptoms and signs with CHD in patients presenting with chest pain in a primary care setting. Further research is necessary to elucidate whether these differences would support recommendations for different diagnostic approaches for CHD according to a patient's gender.