font size


Chest Pain

Medical Author:
Medical Editor:
Medical Editor:

Chest pain facts

  • There are many causes of chest pain, and while many are not serious, it may be difficult to distinguish among heart attack, pulmonary embolus or aortic dissection, and another diagnosis that is not life-threatening. For that reason, patients are routinely advised to seek medical care for most types of chest pain.
  • While each cause of chest pain has a classic presentation, there are enough variations that it may take specific testing to come to a diagnosis. These tests will depend on the patient's presentation and the health care professional's index of suspicion as to what the diagnosis might be.
  • Treatment for chest pain depends upon the cause.
  • It is best to be safe. Always seek medical care for the assessment of chest pain.

Chest pain introduction

Chest pain is one of the most common complaints that will bring a patient to the emergency department. Seeking immediate care may be lifesaving, and considerable public education has been undertaken to get patients to access medical care when chest pain strikes. While the patient may be worried about a heart attack, there are many other causes of pain in the chest that the health care professional will need to consider. Some diagnoses are life-threatening, while others are less dangerous.

Deciding the cause of chest pain is sometimes very difficult and may require blood tests, X-rays, CT scans and other tests to sort out the diagnosis. Often though, a careful history taken by the health care professional may be all that is needed to find the answer.

What are the sources of chest pain?

The following anatomic locations can all be potential sources of chest pain:

  • the chest wall including the ribs, the muscles, and the skin;
  • the back including the spine, the nerves, and the back muscles;
  • the lung, the pleura (the lining of the lung), or the trachea;
  • the heart including the pericardium (the sac that surrounds the heart);
  • the aorta;
  • the esophagus;
  • the diaphragm, the flat muscle that separates the chest and abdominal cavities; and
  • referred pain from the abdominal cavity including organs like the stomach, gallbladder, and pancreas, as well as irritation from the underside of the diaphragm due to infection, bleeding or other types of fluid.

There may be classic presentations of signs and symptoms for many diseases but they can also present atypically and there may also be significant overlap among the symptoms of each condition. Age, gender, and race can affect presentation and the health care professional must consider many variables before coming to a specific diagnosis.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 7/9/2014

Patient Comments

Viewers share their comments

Chest Pain - Cause Question: What was the cause of your chest pain?
Chest Pain - Treatment Question: What was the treatment for your chest pain?
Chest Pain - Broken or Bruised Ribs Question: Was the cause of your chest pain broken or bruised ribs? Please share your story.
Chest Pain - Diagnosis Question: What were the tests and exams you received for your chest pain? What was the diagnosis?
Chest Pain - Pneumothorax Question: If the cause of your chest pain was pneumothorax, please discuss the tests, diagnosis and treatment.
Chest Pain - Angina and Heart Attack Question: Was angina the reason for your chest pain ? Please share your experience.
Source: MedicineNet.com
http://www.medicinenet.com/chest_pain/article.htm

Heart Health

Get the latest treatment options.

Chest Pain Related Articles
advertisement
advertisement
Use Pill Finder Find it Now See Interactions

Pill Identifier on RxList

  • quick, easy,
    pill identification

Find a Local Pharmacy

  • including 24 hour, pharmacies

Interaction Checker

  • Check potential drug interactions
Search the Medical Dictionary for Health Definitions & Medical Abbreviations