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First Aid & Emergencies

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Chest Pain Treatment

Medical Treatment for Chest Pain continued...

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.

After reviewing your immediate test results, the hospital health care provider will make a decision about where you should be for the next hours and days.

  • If you have an established diagnosis of angina, you will likely be admitted to the hospital or to an observation unit for additional tests and risk stratification. This risk stratification may include stress testing or a cardiac catheterization.
  • If angina is a possibily but unlikely because you have minimal or no risk factors for coronary artery disease, you may be sent home after testing and told to follow up with your primary care provider within the next day or two.

Angioplasty is a treatment used for people whose angina does not get better with medication or who are at high risk of having a heart attack.

  • Before angioplasty can be done, the area(s) of coronary artery narrowing will be located with coronary arteriography.
  • A thin plastic tube called a catheter will be inserted into an artery in the arm or groin with local sedation. The catheter has a tiny balloon attached to the end.
  • The catheter will be threaded through the arteries and into the artery where the narrowing is.
  • The balloon will be inflated, opening up the narrowing.
  • This is not a permanent solution for most people. Many require placement of a "stent," a small metal sleeve that is placed in the narrowed artery. The stent holds the artery open.

If you are visiting your primary care doctor because you've had angina symptoms, he or she will decide whether to evaluate your condition on an outpatient basis, refer you to a heart specialist, or admit you to the hospital for further tests.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Varnada Karriem-Norwood, MD on May 06, 2014
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