Chest pain is pain or discomfort in the chest, typically the front of the chest. It may be described as sharp, dull, pressure, heaviness or squeezing. Associated symptoms may include pain in the shoulder, arm, upper abdomen, or jaw, along with nausea, sweating, or shortness of breath. It can be divided into heart-related and non-heart-related pain. Pain due to insufficient blood flow to the heart is also called angina pectoris. Those with diabetes or the elderly may have less clear symptoms.
|Other names||Pectoralgia, stethalgia, thoracalgia, thoracodynia|
|Potential location of pain from a heart attack|
|Specialty||Emergency medicine, internal medicine, cardiology|
|Symptoms||Discomfort in the front of the chest|
|Causes||Serious: Acute coronary syndrome (including heart attacks), pulmonary embolism, pneumothorax, pericarditis, aortic dissection, esophageal rupture|
Common: Gastroesophageal reflux disease, psychological problems such as anxiety disorders, depression, stress etc, muscle or skeletal pain, pneumonia, shingles
|Diagnostic method||Medical history, physical exam, medical tests|
|Treatment||Based on the underlying cause|
|Prognosis||Depends on the underlying cause|
|Frequency||~5% of ER visits|
Serious and relatively common causes include acute coronary syndrome such as a heart attack (31%), pulmonary embolism (2%), pneumothorax, pericarditis (4%), aortic dissection (1%) and esophageal rupture. Other common causes include gastroesophageal reflux disease (30%), muscle or skeletal pain (28%), pneumonia (2%), shingles (0.5%), pleuritis, traumatic and anxiety disorders. Determining the cause of chest pain is based on a person's medical history, a physical exam and other medical tests. About 3% of heart attacks, however, are initially missed.
Management of chest pain is based on the underlying cause. Initial treatment often includes the medications aspirin and nitroglycerin. The response to treatment does not usually indicate whether the pain is heart-related. When the cause is unclear, the person may be referred for further evaluation.
Chest pain represents about 5% of presenting problems to the emergency room. In the United States, about 8 million people go to the emergency department with chest pain a year. Of these, about 60% are admitted to either the hospital or an observation unit. The cost of emergency visits for chest pain in the United States is more than US$8 billion per year. Chest pain accounts for about 0.5% of visits by children to the emergency department.