When is Chest Pain Dangerous?

When is Chest Pain Dangerous?
Chest discomfort is one of the most worrisome reasons why persons seek care from a physician. It can affect people of all ages and can stem from many causes. Thankfully, the majority of patients who experience chest discomfort do not have a serious cause. In other words, not all chest pain is dangerous. Physicians approach chest discomfort from a risk stratification standpoint, perform a physical examination and sometimes diagnostic studies.

Risk stratification includes factors such as age, gender, past medical history of heart disease, high blood pressure (hypertension), elevated cholesterol, diabetes, stroke and other conditions that can affect the heart and blood vessels. Symptoms of a serious condition may include pressure, tightness, a dull ache across the chest region, shortness of breath, nausea, sweating and dizziness. Studies may include an electrocardiogram (ECG), X-rays, blood tests and, if necessary, special diagnostic studies.

When someone experiences chest discomfort they often worry, understandably, if their heart is okay or if they have a serious medical condition. The decision to seek out medical evaluation includes WHERE to go. In general, if you are middle aged and older, have a history of any of the above risk factors and are concerned about your heart, you should go to the emergency department located at the hospital. DO NOT go to urgent care or your primary physician’s office as this may cause a significant delay in receiving emergency care! When in doubt, you may contact your regular physician for further advice but DO NOT DELAY getting the right care in the right location.

A final note of clarification: urgent care IS NOT an emergency department. Urgent care is for minor medical conditions that are not life threatening. If someone with a serious form of chest pain comes to urgent care, they can expect a brief assessment and transportation to the emergency department. Talk with your doctor about preventing heart disease. If you do smoke, try to quit with help from your doctor. Back  
  • Brian Coté, DO

    Brian Coté, DO

    Board certified in Emergency Medicine, Dr. Brian Cote has practiced at Holland Hospital for 20 years in both emergency medicine and urgent care. He's currently the Medical Director of Urgent Care. After completing his residency at Spectrum Health - Butterworth Campus, Dr. Cote decided to make west Michigan home. He continues to cultivate his passion of urgent care - enriching the lives of patient's in his care.

    All blogs by Brian Coté, DO

Share this Post