Chest Pain. The words alone provoke fear. However, there are many possible causes of chest pain. Some causes are mildly inconvenient, while other causes are serious, even life-threatening. Any organ or tissue in your chest can be the source of pain, including your heart, lungs, esophagus, muscles, ribs, tendons or nerves.
Chest pain from a heart attack
The most serious cause of chest pain is a heart attack. A heart attack occurs when the supply of blood and oxygen to an area of heart muscle is blocked, usually by a clot in a coronary artery. Often, this blockage leads to an irregular heartbeat or rhythm that causes a severe decrease in the pumping function of the heart and may bring about sudden death. If the blockage is not treated within a few hours, the affected heart muscle will die and be replaced by scar tissue.
A heart attack is a life-threatening event. Everyone should know the warning signs of a heart attack and how to get emergency help. Many people suffer permanent damage to their hearts or die because they do not get help immediately.
Each year, more than a million persons in the U.S. have a heart attack and about half (515,000) of them die. About one-half of those who die do so within 1 hour of the start of symptoms and before reaching the hospital.
Emergency personnel often can stop arrhythmias with emergency CPR, defibrillation and prompt advanced cardiac life support procedures. If care is sought soon enough, blood flow in the blocked artery can be restored in time to prevent permanent damage to the heart. Yet, most people do not seek medical care for two hours or more after symptoms begin. Many people wait 12 hours or longer.
If you think you are having a heart attack, call 911 immediately. The warning signs and symptoms of a heart attack can include:
Certain people are more at risk of having a heart attack than others, including those who
have high blood pressure or cholesterol levels; are obese; have a family history of heart disease; smoke; or are physically inactive.
Cardiac catheterization is used to detect and evaluate conditions of the heart. A very small catheter is inserted into a major artery (usually in the groin) and navigated through the aorta into the heart. Procedures are typically performed by interventional cardiologists, a sub-specialty within cardiology with special training in catheter-based diagnostic and interventional procedures.
Catheter-based intervention offers patients shorter hospital stays, reduced recovery time without the pain of a large incision, and minimal surgical scarring. The procedure also reduces the risks and recovery time found in traditional surgical approaches.
Coronary arteriography (X-ray photography of coronary arteries), angioplasty (using a balloon to open blocked or closed arteries) and stenting (inserting a tiny mesh tube that supports artery walls and keeps vessels open) all are performed in a cardiac catheterization lab.
Causes of non-heart related chest pain
Chest Pain Center
Sometimes the source of chest discomfort may not be clear and you may be admitted to a Chest Pain Center for further observation and diagnostic tests. Your physician will discuss with you the outcomes of your diagnostic test(s). If there is a possibility your heart is the source of your chest pain, you may be admitted to the Medical Center. If the physician determines your chest pain is not heart-related, you may be discharged.
Key diagnostic tests are:
You can decrease your risk of chest pain by doing the following: