Physicians will typically keep asking a patient about chest pain even after they have identified it as pressure. Emergency Room Physicians need to consider whether pain is esophageal acid reflux [burning], musculoskeletal pain[stabbing or with movemment] or cardiac pain [at rest or exertional], the latter requiring a 'chest pain protocol' evaluating cardiac enzymes creatine kinase and toponin and ending with a stress test or cardiac catheterization in the hospital. It may help for the evaluator to write out 'chest pain' or 'chest pressure'[feeling of ‘heaviness of chest’]and refer back to this to expedite the interview. Associated symptoms are pain in the neck, jaws, shoulders, arms or hands; breathlessness [dyspnea], inappropriate sweating, nausea, or exertional dizziness or physical exhaustion. It is important to memorize this list so that you can say you have reviewed a complete set with the patient. Diabetes reduces or obliterates symptoms of myocardial ischaemia and infarction because of autonomic neuropathy. Associated physical signs of an impending heart attack [angina, ischemia] or heart attack [myocardial infarction] are high or low blood pressure,increased pulse rate[tachycardia) and respiratory rate[tachypnoea]. Dyspnea and/or Pain on inspiration [pleurisy] should be evaluated by computed tomography for pulmonary embolus, another fatal treatable process.
- name, AGE
- O = onset
- Sudden or gradual onset?
- P = precipitating
- What were you doing when pain came on?
- NO, antacids, rest, positional
- exercise, food, emotion, deep breaths
- Q = quality
- sharp, dull, heavy, squeezing, tearing
- R = radiation
- Point to where pain is and goes. (neck, jaw)
- S = symptoms, severity
- sweating, SOB, palpitations, cough, syncope/presyncope, anxiety, sour-taste, nausea
- T = timing
- Describe the course of the pain. (worsening, intermittent, better)
- Timing of day.
- V = déjà vu
- Have you felt similar symptoms before?
- Previous similar episodes? (past therapy, investigations)
- Hx: MI, documented CAD, angioplasty, CABG
- Important historical risk factors
- Diabetes mellitus
- positive family history
- syncope, exercise intolerance, PND/orthopnea, angina, CVA
- Is the chest pain typical or atypical for angina?
- look at the ECG, cardiac enzymes, CXR
Differential Diagnosis edit
- CV: stable or unstable angina (< 10 min, worsened by cold air, stress)
- IHD (> 30 min, unrelieved)
- aortic dissection
- pericarditis (hrs to days, relieved by sitting up and leaning forward)
- RESP: pneumothorax, PE, pleuritis
- GI: GERD, PUD, esophageal spasm
- MSK: costochondritis, rib fracture
- MISC: panic attack, herpes zoster
Canadian Cardiovascular Society (CCS) Classification edit
- Angina only with strenuous, rapid or prolonged activity
- Angina only slightly limiting ordinary activity, such as walking up-hill, climbing stairs rapidly, or climbing more than 2 blocks on the level, at a normal pace.
- Angina with level walking at normal pace for less than 1-2 blocks, or less than 1 flight of stairs
- Inability to carry on any physical activity without developing angina