Open Access Research

Screening for anxiety disorders in patients with coronary artery disease

Adomas Bunevicius123*, Margarita Staniute1, Julija Brozaitiene1, Victor JM Pop3, Julius Neverauskas1 and Robertas Bunevicius1

Author Affiliations

1 Behavioral Medicine Institute, Lithuanian University of Health Sciences, Palanga, Lithuania

2 Department of Neurology, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC, USA

3 CoRPS—Center of Research on Psychology in Somatic diseases, Department of Medical and Clinical Psychology, Tilburg University, Tilburg, The Netherlands

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Health and Quality of Life Outcomes 2013, 11:37  doi:10.1186/1477-7525-11-37

Published: 11 March 2013



Anxiety disorders are prevalent and associated with poor prognosis in patients with coronary artery disease (CAD). However, studies examining screening of anxiety disorders in CAD patients are lacking. In the present study we evaluated the prevalence of anxiety disorders in patients with CAD and diagnostic utility of self-rating scales for screening of anxiety disorders.


Five-hundred and twenty-three CAD patients not receiving psychotropic treatments at initiation of rehabilitation program completed self-rating scales (Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale or HADS; Spielberger State-Anxiety Inventory or SSAI; and Spielberger Trait-Anxiety Inventory or STAI) and were interviewed for generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), social phobia, panic disorder and agoraphobia (Mini-International Neuropsychiatric Interview or MINI).


Thirty-eight (7%) patients were diagnosed with anxiety disorder(s), including GAD (5%), social phobia (2%), agoraphobia (1%) and panic disorder (1%). Areas under the ROC curve of the HADS Anxiety subscale (HADS-A), STAI and SSAI for screening of any anxiety disorder were .81, .80 and .72, respectively. Optimal cut-off values for screening of any anxiety disorders were ≥8 for the HADS-A (sensitivity = 82%; specificity = 76%; and positive predictive value (PPV) = 21%); ≥45 for the STAI (sensitivity = 89%; specificity = 56%; and PPV = 14%); and ≥40 for the SSAI (sensitivity = 84%; specificity = 55%; PPV = 13%). In a subgroup of patients (n = 340) scoring below the optimal major depressive disorder screening cut-off value of HADS-Depression subscale (score <5), the HADS-A, STAI and SSAI had moderate-high sensitivity (range from 69% to 89%) and low PPVs (≤22%) for GAD and any anxiety disorders.


Anxiety disorders are prevalent in CAD patients but can be reliably identified using self-rating scales. Anxiety self-rating scales had comparable sensitivities but the HADS-A had greater specificity and PPV when compared to the STAI and SSAI for screening of anxiety disorders. However, false positive rates were high, suggesting that patients with positive screening results should undergo psychiatric interview prior to initiating treatment for anxiety disorders and that routine use of anxiety self-rating scales for screening purposes can increase healthcare costs. Anxiety screening has incremental value to depression screening for identifying anxiety disorders.

Coronary artery disease; Anxiety; Screening; Sensitivity; Specificity