Costochondritis is diagnosed using the history and physical examination rather than by specific laboratory or imaging tests. Tests are sometimes used to rule out other conditions that can have similar symptoms but are more dangerous, such as heart disease.
- The doctor will try to reproduce tenderness over the affected ribs. There is usually no significant visible swelling.
- Blood work and a chest X-ray are usually not helpful in diagnosing costochondritis, but these may be used to rule out other causes of chest pain. However, after sternum surgery, or for people at risk for heart disease, doctors will be more likely to do tests if there is chest pain and possible costochondritis to be certain there is no infection or other serious medical problems.
- They will look for signs of infection such as redness, swelling, pus, and drainage at the site of surgery.
- A more sophisticated imaging study of the chest, a gallium scan, can be used to check for infection. It will show increased uptake of the radioactive material gallium in an area of infection.
- In situations of possible infection, the white blood cell count may be elevated.
- Chest X-ray is obtained if pneumonia is a suspected cause of chest pain.
- ECG and other tests will be done if a heart problem is considered.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 2/19/2015
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