Chest Pain Treatment
Angina -- or chest pain -- occurs because the heart is not receiving enough oxygen. The pain is usually in the chest and may also be felt in the shoulder, arm, or jaw. Not all chest pain is angina and it may be difficult to determine the cause of chest pain.
The treatment for angina depends on the severity of the symptoms and the results of tests that are done to find the underlying cause.
Chest Pain Treatment at Home
Stop doing whatever it is that causes your symptoms, remain calm, and call 911. Immediate help and intervention is your best chance for survival if you are having a heart attack or other serious problem.
- Lie down in a comfortable position with your head up.
- If you have regular adult aspirin or its equivalent, chew one (as long as you are not allergic to aspirin). Chewing more than one will not do any good and may cause unwanted side effects.
If you have had angina before and been evaluated by your health care provider, follow his or her recommendations.
- This may mean rest, and the immediate use of sublingual nitroglycerin.
- It may include a visit to the hospital emergency room.
Medical Treatment for Chest Pain
If you have come to the hospital emergency department, you may be sent to another care area for further testing, treatment, or observation. On the basis of your provider's preliminary diagnosis, you may be sent to the following units:
- An observation unit pending test results or further testing
- A cardiac care unit
- A cardiac catheterization unit
- The operating room for emergency surgery
Regardless of where you are sent, several basic treatments may be started. Which are performed depend on the severity of your symptoms and the underlying disease.
- You may have an intravenous line started. This line is used to give medication or fluids.
- You will probably be given an aspirin if you haven't already taken one. This can prevent blood clots.
- You may be given oxygen through a face mask or a tube in your nose. This may help you feel better if you are having trouble breathing or feeling uncomfortably short of breath by raising the oxygen content of your blood.
Treatment for chest pain will depend on the severity of your symptoms, severity of the underlying disease, and extent of damage to the heart muscle, if any.
- Simple rest and observation, an aspirin, breathing oxygen, and sublingual nitroglycerin may be all that you need, if it is only angina.
- You may be given medication to reduce anxiety or to treat pain.
- You may be given medication to lower your blood pressure or your heart rate. Beta blockers, Angiotensin Converting Enzyme Inhibitors (ACE inhibitors), and cholesterol- lowering drugs (statins) are commonly given if the chances of a heart attack are likely.
- You may be given medication to reduce your risk of having a blood clot or to prevent further clotting.
- If the health care provider believes your chest pain actually represents a heart attack, you may be given a powerful "clot-buster" medication called a fibrinolytic. Or you may be taken immediately for cardiac catheterization for certain types of heart attacks.