Costochondritis and Tietze syndrome facts
- Costochondritis is inflammation of the costochondral junctions, where ribs attach to the breast bone.
- Genetics, viruses, and injury may play roles in causing costochondritis.
- Costochondritis can be a medical condition by itself or be a feature of a more widespread disorder.
- Costochondritis and Tietze syndrome are diagnosed based on the patient's history of signs and symptoms, such as chest pain localized to the cartilage adjacent to the breastbone, as well as tenderness.
What is costochondritis?
Costochondritis is a common form of inflammation of the cartilage where ribs attach to the breastbone (the sternum). The inflammation can involve multiple cartilage areas on both sides of the sternum but usually is on one side only.
What is Tietze syndrome?
Tietze syndrome is an inflammation of the costochondral cartilages of the upper front of the chest that involves swelling of the joint. Costochondritis is distinguished from Tietze syndrome, a condition also involving pain in the same area of the front of the chest, by the presence of swelling. Costochondritis is not associated with swelling, as opposed to Tietze syndrome, where swelling is characteristic.
What are risk factors for costochondritis?
Risk factors for costochondritis include injury to the chest, virus infection, and rheumatic diseases.
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The main symptom of costochondritis is chest wall pain that varies in intensity. The pain may be perceived as
- sharp, or
- aching pain.
Movement, exertion, and breathing deeply tend to aggravate symptoms as the cartilage between the ribs and sternum flex.
What are signs and symptoms of costochondritis and Tietze syndrome?
Costochondritis is distinguished from Tietze syndrome, a condition also involving pain in the costosternal joint, by the presence of swelling. Costochondritis is not associated with swelling, as opposed to Tietze syndrome, where swelling is characteristic. Tietze syndrome is an inflammation of the costochondral cartilages of the upper front of the chest that involves swelling of the joint.
While both costochondritis and Tietze syndrome feature symptoms such as localized chest pain and tenderness, Tietze syndrome also causes swelling over the ribs and cartilage near the breastbone (sternum). Signs and symptoms such as redness, tenderness, and warmth can also be present, but a localized swelling is the distinguishing finding. The chest pain is variable, often sharp, can be confused with heart pain or heart attack, and can last from hours to weeks. It can cause difficulty with sleeping and even rolling over in bed is sometimes painful. Blood testing (sedimentation rate or C-reactive protein test) can show signs of inflammation in patients with Tietze syndrome, whereas patients with costochondritis alone typically have normal tests for inflammation.
What health care specialists aid in the diagnosis and treatment of costochondritis and Tietze syndrome?
Primary care doctors, including family medicine doctors, general practitioners, and internists, as well as rheumatologists (medical specialists in musculoskeletal disease and systemic autoimmune conditions) and orthopedists (medical specialists in disorders of the musculoskeletal system) are all health care professionals who aid in the diagnosis and treatment of costochondritis and Tietze syndrome. If a patient goes to an emergency room with chest pain, he or she will see an emergency medicine doctor.
What medical exams and tests do health care professionals use to make a diagnosis of costochondritis and Tietze syndrome?
Doctors diagnose costochondritis and Tietze syndrome based on the typical history of chest pain localized to the cartilage adjacent to the breastbone as well as the examination findings of tenderness. Swelling is also noted in patients with Tietze syndrome.
What is the treatment for costochondritis and Tietze syndrome?
Costochondritis can be aggravated by any activity that involves stressing the structures of the front of the chest cage. It is generally best to minimize these activities until the inflammation of the rib and cartilage areas has subsided.
Rest, anti-inflammatory medication, physical therapy, and cortisone injections have been used by doctors treating the inflammation and chest wall pain of both costochondritis and Tietze syndrome.
What are home remedies for costochondritis and Tietze syndrome?
Ice packs applied to local swelling can sometimes help to reduce chest pain and inflammation. Local lidocaine analgesic patch (Lidoderm) application can reduce pain.
What is the prognosis for costochondritis and Tietze syndrome?
The outlook for costochondritis and Tietze syndrome is generally very good. Most patients respond well to conservative treatments. Recurrences are more likely in those who also have underlying rheumatologic diseases as described above.
Is it possible to prevent costochondritis and Tietze syndrome?
Costochondritis and Tietze syndrome cannot be prevented. Although aggravating the symptoms can be minimized by avoiding injury to the chest wall.
Medically Reviewed on 11/10/2017
Firestein, Gary S., et al. Kelley's Textbook of Rheumatology, Ninth Edition. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders, 2013.