If it appears that heart problems are the cause of your chest pain, your
doctor may give you medications such as:
Aspirin inhibits blood clotting, helping to maintain blood flow
through narrowed heart arteries. When taken during a heart attack,
aspirin can significantly decrease death rates. You may be asked to
chew the aspirin to hasten its absorption.
This medication for treating angina temporarily opens narrowed blood
vessels, improving blood flow to and from your heart.
These drugs help relax your heart muscle, slow your heart rate and
decrease your blood pressure.
Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors and
angiotensin receptor blockers (ARBs).
These drugs allow blood to flow from your heart more easily. Your
doctor may prescribe ACE inhibitors or ARBs if you've had a moderate
to severe heart attack that has reduced your heart's pumping
capacity. These drugs also lower blood pressure and may prevent a
second heart attack.
Calcium channel blockers.
When treating coronary artery spasm, doctors use heart medications
such as calcium channel blockers to relax the coronary arteries and
prevent the spasm.
If it's clear you're having a heart attack, you may be treated with
clot-busting drugs or undergo a surgical procedure such as:
In this procedure, doctors insert a catheter with a special balloon
tip into a blocked coronary artery. The balloon is inflated to open
up the artery and improve blood flow to your heart.
A stent is like a scaffold inside the artery to prop it open after
it has been opened with angioplasty.
Coronary bypass surgery.
This procedure creates an alternative route for blood to go around a
blocked coronary artery.
If it's clear you're experiencing a pulmonary embolism, you will likely
be treated with emergency blood-thinning medications. Aortic dissection,
also an emergency, may require surgery. Other heart and lung conditions
can be treated initially in the emergency room. Cancer involving the
chest requires treatment and referral to an oncologist, or doctor who
specializes in cancer treatment.
Doctors usually treat angina — chest pain caused by restricted blood
flow to the heart — with medication, angioplasty or coronary bypass
surgery. For people who don't respond to or who aren't candidates for
these standard treatments, doctors at some major medical centers are
evaluating an alternative treatment called enhanced external
counterpulsation (EECP) for treatment of chronic angina.
Most of the time, chest pain isn't related to emergency heart or lung
problems. If doctors determine you're out of immediate danger,
evaluation and treatment may shift to an outpatient setting. You may be
referred to your own physician or a specialist for further evaluation.
Treatments for noncardiac causes of chest pain depend on the type of
problem. These problems and their treatments include:
If your symptoms suggest heartburn, you'll likely need to take an
over-the-counter or prescription-strength stomach acid blocker or
antacid in the emergency room. Most episodes of
isolated events caused by overeating. However, if you experience
frequent heartburn (at least one episode a week), your doctor or a
doctor who specializes in stomach and intestinal problems
(gastroenterologist), may ask you to undergo more tests. Left
untreated, chronic, frequent heartburn can occasionally lead to
scarring and narrowing of your esophagus. Treatment for chronic
heartburn may include dietary modifications, antacids, acid blockers
or other prescription medications and, in some cases, surgery.
This anxiety-related cause of chest pain can be treated with
prescription anti-anxiety medications, relaxation techniques and
counseling to find out what may be triggering your attacks. Panic
attacks are often mistaken for heart attacks, and many people are
seen in emergency rooms for this problem. But once your condition is
diagnosed, you can be referred for treatment to help you gain
control over these attacks.
This inflammation of the pleura, the membrane that lines your chest
cavity and covers your lungs, may result from a variety of
conditions, including pneumonia and, rarely, autoimmune conditions
such as lupus. Your doctor will want to identify and treat the
underlying disease that caused pleurisy. Over-the-counter pain
relievers can help minimize the pain until the inflammation
Treatment for this inflammation of the cartilage of your rib cage is
generally rest, heat and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such
as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, others).
Sore muscles, injured ribs or pinched nerves.
Chest pain from injured ribs, pinched nerves and sore chest muscles
improves with time and self-care measures recommended by your
These disorders have many causes, which can usually be treated with
medications, minor surgery or endoscopic techniques. You'll probably
be referred to a gastroenterologist for evaluation and treatment.
Treatment with acyclovir (Zovirax) or a similar antiviral medication
is best started as quickly as possible, preferably within 24 hours
from the onset of pain or burning, and before the appearance of
blisters. Doctors use other treatments, such as analgesics and
antihistamines, to control symptoms such as pain and itching.
Gallbladder or pancreas problems.
You may need surgery to treat an inflamed gallbladder or pancreas
that's causing pain to radiate from your abdomen into your chest.
Chest pain can be one of the most difficult symptoms to interpret. But
spending a few hours in the ER having your chest pain evaluated can
bring you peace of mind. You may feel the most relief by simply finding
out the cause of your pain.
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