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Chest pain treatment

There are several possible causes of chest pain linked to the heart. Chest pain can be a medical emergency. Treatment for chest pain will depend on the cause and the symptoms.

Self care at home

Heart attack

If you suspect that you or someone you are with may be having a heart attack, call 999 for emergency services immediately.

  • While waiting for the ambulance, the first aid advice from the British Red Cross is to sit the person down, give them a 300mg aspirin tablet to chew. It is important to chew the aspirin before swallowing it because chewing decreases the time the medicine takes to have an effect. Chewing an aspirin in the early stages of a heart attack may reduce the risk of death and it may also reduce the severity of the attack.

Angina

If the patient has had angina and has glyceryl trinitrate tablets or spray available, get the patient to place a tablet, or to spray, under the tongue as he or she has been advised to do. This may aid in increasing blood flow to blocked or narrowed arteries.

  • If the first dose does not work within two to three minutes, a second dose can be taken after five minutes, and a third dose after a further five minutes.
  • If after three glyceryl trinitrate tablets or spray treatments, the patient’s chest pain persists, call 999 immediately.

Oesophagus

If the pain is from acid reflux ( GORD), it may be relieved with antacids. Even if the pain goes away after taking an antacid, do not assume they are not having a heart attack. The person should seek medical advice as they may be advised to be evaluated in a hospital accident and emergency department.

Medical treatment

Heart attack treatment

Treatment for a heart attack is aimed at increasing blood flow by opening arteries blocked or narrowed by a blood clot.

  • Drugs used to achieve this include aspirin and clot-busting (thrombolytic) drugs.
  • Other drugs can be used to slow the heart rate, which decreases the workload of the heart and reduces pain.
  • Angioplasty is a way of unblocking an artery. Angiography is done first to locate narrowing or blockages. A very thin plastic tube called a catheter is inserted into the artery. A tiny balloon on the end of the catheter is inflated. This expands the artery, providing a wider passage for blood. The balloon is then deflated and removed. Sometimes a small metal scaffold called a stent is placed in the artery to keep it expanded.
  • Surgery may be required if medical treatment is unsuccessful. This could include angioplasty or cardiac bypass.

Angina treatment

Treatment of angina is directed at relieving chest pain that occurs as the result of reduced blood flow to the heart.

  • The medication glyceryl trinitrate is the most widely used treatment. Glyceryl trinitrate dilates (widens) the coronary arteries. It is often taken under the tongue (sublingually) as a tablet or spray.
  • People with known angina may be treated with glyceryl trinitrate for three doses, five minutes apart.
  • If the pain remains the patient is admitted to the hospital and monitored to rule out a heart attack.
  • Long-term treatment after the first episode of angina focuses on reducing risk factors for atherosclerosis and heart disease.
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