AIM: To describe various symptoms other than pain among consecutive patients on the waiting list for possible coronary revascularisation in relation to estimated severity of chest pain. DESIGN: All patients were sent a postal questionnaire for symptom evaluation. SUBJECTS: All patients in western Sweden on the waiting list in September 1990 who had been referred for coronary angiography or coronary revascularisation (n = 904). RESULTS: 88% of the patients reported chest pain symptoms that limited their daily activities to a greater or lesser degree. Various psychological symptoms including anxiety and depression were strongly associated with the severity of pain (P < 0.001), as were sleep disturbances (P < 0.001), and dyspnoea and various psychosomatic symptoms (P < 0.001). Nevertheless only 44% of the patients reported chest pain as the major disruptive symptom, whereas the remaining 56% reported uncertainty about the future, fear, or unspecified symptoms as being the most disturbing. CONCLUSIONS: In a consecutive series of patients on the waiting list for possible coronary revascularisation, half the participants reported that uncertainty and fear were more disturbing than chest pain.