Updated: Aug 13, 2015
  • Author: Irina Petrache, MD; Chief Editor: Zab Mosenifar, MD, FACP, FCCP  more...
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Pleurodynia is an uncommon complication of coxsackievirus B infection. However, cases of pleurodynia secondary to other enteroviruses have been reported (eg, cytopathogenic human orphan [ECHO] virus). Pleurodynia is defined as the sudden occurrence of lancinating chest pain or abdominal pain attacks, commonly associated with fever, malaise, and headaches. Coxsackievirus B is an RNA Enterovirus, which usually causes an asymptomatic or brief upper respiratory tract or gastroenteric infection. In rare cases, other severe sequelae of coxsackievirus B infection develop, including meningitis and carditis. [1]

Also see the article Coxsackieviruses.



The striated muscle is the actual anatomic structure targeted by the coxsackievirus B and is responsible for the attacks of severe chest pain. Therefore, the term pleurodynia may be a misnomer because only some patients with the condition actually develop pleuritis (ie, inflammation of the pleural surface). In patients with pleurodynia, the striated intercostal muscles necrose, which explains the frequent elevations in serum creatine kinase levels. Some of the more chronic sequelae, such as myocarditis, dermato-polymyositis, chronic fatigue syndrome, and possibly, juvenile-onset diabetes type I, are believed to be immune mediated.

The virus has an incubation time of 1 week in the gastrointestinal tract and then, through hematogenous dissemination, involves the target organs, most commonly the skeletal muscles but also the CNS (ie, meningitis, encephalitis) and myocardium (ie, carditis with or without associated pericarditis). Coxsackievirus B can be recovered in the stool or pharynx for up to 2 weeks after the resolution of the symptoms.




United States

Coxsackievirus B was present in 24% of the 18,000 enteroviruses isolated and reported in the United States from 1970-1979. [2] The estimated number of nonpolio enteroviral symptomatic infections is 5-10 million per year.

In regions of temperate climate, the infection is seasonal, with about 90% of infections occurring in the summer and early fall, and sometimes infections occur in epidemics.

The incidence of coxsackievirus B infection in neonates is 1 in 2000 live births.


Antibodies to coxsackievirus B serotypes are present in 75% of the population in developed countries. In the tropical and subtropical climate areas, the prevalence of the enteroviral infections is year-round.


The severity of the coxsackievirus B infection is highest in infants and children. In infants who develop coxsackievirus B infection, 10% die, usually within the first 4 weeks of life most commonly from cardiac involvement. Fulminant hepatic failure, sepsis syndrome, and severe CNS involvement with seizures and apnea are also potential complications in this age group. [3]


Males are more commonly affected than females.


Coxsackievirus B infection occurs most commonly in children younger than 15 years; half of these patients are younger than 5 years, and 30% are younger than 1 year. The disease is rare in patients older than 60 years. However, pleurodynia most commonly affects adults infected with the virus, with fewer than 10% of cases occurring in patients younger than 20 years. Of the 372 prospectively studied children aged 4-18 years with nonpolio enteroviral infections, only 3% developed pleurodynia. In contrast, 30 of the 78 mostly adult patients with coxsackievirus B-associated cardiac disease had pleurodynia. Therefore, the location of pain is believed to be predominantly thoracic in adults and abdominal in children.



The prognosis is good, with complete recovery in most cases. The return to normal health may be gradual after a period of weakness and fatigue. No deaths are reported as a direct result of pleurodynia.


Patient Education

Encourage proper hygiene measures in the patient's household to avoid intrafamilial spread of the virus.

For excellent patient education resources, visit eMedicineHealth's Lung Disease and Respiratory Health Center