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Is Chest Pain A Definite Sign for Heart Attack?

Posted Sep 30 2011 11:25am
When someone is having a serious pain in the chest, the first thing that comes to our mind is: is he or she having a heart attack (or myocardial infarction)?

Serious pain in the chest seems to be an obvious sign of a heart attack. Researchers from the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, however, did not appear to agree.

In their paper published in August 2011 in the ‘Annals of Emergency Medicine’, they pointed out that a high degree of pain does not indicate that someone entering the emergency room with chest pains is having a heart attack.

After examining and following for 30 days more than 3,000 patients who arrived at the UPenn hospital emergency department complaining of chest pain, the researchers found that most severe chest pain was not a good predictor for identifying patients who were having heart attack or who were more prone to having one over the next month. Meanwhile, they also stressed that a patient who does not have severe chest pain does not mean that he or she is not having a heart attack.
The results of their study showed that pain that lasted more than an hour was not a useful sign of heart attack versus other conditions, and the pain of a heart attack also does not always settle in the chest area but might be in the chest, arm, jaw back or abdomen.
According to the researchers, failure to diagnose acute myocardial infarction accounted for 30 percent of malpractice claims paid out, with 2 to 5 percent of patients who were having heart attack being inappropriately discharged from emergency departments.
Though pain severity was not a good predictor, it could correctly identify people who had such symptom and arrived at the emergency department in an ambulance. This might be due to the fact that people tend to ignore chest pain until it is serious enough to call for emergency services.
While the cause of chest pain might or might not be a heart attack, people who have such experience should not ignore it because something serious must have emerged.
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