Although patients with angiographically normal or near normal coronary arteries are at low risk for cardiac disease, several follow-up studies have shown that many continue to report recurrent chest pain associated with social and work dysfunction. Three diagnostic entities have been proposed to explain the morbidity of this group: microvascular angina, esophageal motility disorders and panic disorder. The purpose of this study was to test the hypothesis that panic disorder is found frequently in patients with chest pain who have normal epicardial vessels. Ninety-four subjects with angiographically normal coronary arteries were interviewed according to a structured psychiatric protocol within 24 hours of their catheterizations. Thirty-two (34%) fit Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (third edition, revised) criteria for current panic disorder. Because panic disorder can be effectively treated, physicians should consider this diagnosis in this group of patients. Current research findings suggest that panic disorder, microvascular angina and esophageal disorders may each form the basis for chest pain in approximately 25% of these patients. Miscellaneous problems account for the other 25%.