DOI: 10.1111/1742-6723.14352 ISSN: 1742-6731

Musculoskeletal chest pain prevalence in emergency department presentations: A retrospective case notes review

Moreton Dacombe‐Bird, Suranga Dassanayake, Sierra Beck, Daniel Cury Ribeiro, Garry Nixon, Katrina Bryant, Tim Stokes, Gerard Wilkins, Chris Johnstone, David Dixon, Stephen August, Ewan Kennedy
  • Emergency Medicine



Musculoskeletal (MSK) causes of chest pain are considered common in emergency care, yet management is limited, reported outcomes are poor and prevalence data in New Zealand are lacking. The present study aims to estimate the prevalence of MSK chest pain in New Zealand EDs and describe the characteristics of MSK chest pain cases.


A retrospective chart review was conducted based on de‐identified clinical notes extracted from four hospitals within the South Island of New Zealand from 3 months spanning 1 March to 31 May 2021. Individual cases were categorised to the single best‐fitting cause of chest pain using systems‐based categorisation, based primarily on the doctors' documented final impression.


A total of 1344 cases were categorised in the present study. MSK chest pain had a prevalence of 15% (range 11–31%) of chest pain presentations across all study sites. This represented the second most common system responsible for chest pain, after the cardiovascular system. The mean age of MSK chest pain cases was 46.9 (standard deviation [SD] 19.1) years, compared to 55.5 (SD 19.7) years in all cases. Age and gender‐specific data, data from rural hospitals and MSK sub‐type data are presented.


These data provide a conservative estimate of MSK chest pain prevalence in EDs within the South Island of New Zealand. The findings highlight MSK chest pain as common in emergency care, providing a basis and justification for further research to improve management and outcomes for people with MSK chest pain.

More from our Archive