When Chest Pain Becomes a Problem

March 30, 2022

A man holds his chest wondering if the chest pain he is experiencing is serious and needs medical attention

Virtually everyone will experience chest pain at some point in their lives. This could represent minor discomfort and nothing to be worried about, or it can be a sign of serious cardiovascular issues. Unfortunately, while our understanding of the heart has improved dramatically over the past several decades, it is still impossible to tell (with 100% certainty) the severity of chest pain without comprehensive testing. As a result, it is crucial to say early on that if you believe you have a cardiovascular emergency, you should dial 911 immediately.

One of the most significant concerns is that not enough oxygen is reaching the heart, and the likelihood of significant cardiac issues increases. This can be because of atherosclerosis – plaque buildup on the arterial walls, congestive heart failure – a weakening of the heart, or even valvular disease, where blood is refluxing back due to a defective valve. This chest pain is known as angina and may signify myocardial ischemia and ultimately a precursor to a heart attack. With proper, regular screening, our goal is to catch these potential problems early and offer minimally invasive treatment options. However, some patients are not seen until their situation has worsened to the point where it becomes emergent and requires immediate surgery.

Chest pain often manifests in other areas too. For example, the pain and discomfort associated with a heart attack may not simply be in the middle or left side of the chest. Some patients may experience left or right-side chest pain and arm, back, neck, and shoulder pain. It is important to remember that the nerves in the chest and throughout the body are often interconnected. As a result, pain may not be focused only on one area of the heart.

There are reasons other than heart disease for chest pain. A cracked rib can cause significant chest pain, though patients can usually pinpoint the trauma that caused it. Gastroesophageal reflux disease can cause a deep sensation of pain in the middle of the chest. This usually has precursors, including larger fatty meals or eating too close to bedtime. Chest pain can also be due to muscle strain.

Cardiac arrhythmias or irregular heartbeats can cause chest discomfort, palpitations, and other strange sensations. From atrial fibrillation or Afib, the most common arrhythmia affecting upwards of 5 million Americans, to less common heart rhythm issues, these problems can be disruptive and scary. Dr. Banker offers a wide range of minimally invasive diagnostic tools and potentially curative treatment to address these issues. It is imperative that patients visit a qualified Electrophysiologist at the earliest signs of an arrhythmia to ensure the best possible treatment outcomes.

Ultimately, an accurate diagnosis of the cause of chest pain cannot be made without appropriate testing. Therefore, as we mentioned before, if you are concerned about unusual chest pain or believe you have a medical emergency, it is critically important to get to the hospital emergency room or call 911. Otherwise, call our office as soon as possible to schedule a consultation and begin the diagnostic process.