When Should I Go to the ER for Chest Pain?

Even though chest pain can arise due to some minor conditions, this symptom should never be disregarded as it could also indicate a life-threatening issue requiring immediate medical attention. Determining if a trip to the emergency room is warranted can be a complex one; however, if the wrong decision is made, permanent disability or even death may result. Learning more about the symptoms associated with a heart attack can help you decide if it is time to call 911.

When Should I Go to the ER for Chest Pain?

Numerous medical conditions can cause pain in the chest, some of these conditions are minor (e.g., anxiety); whereas, others are serious (e.g., heart attack). Since patients’ descriptions of pain in the chest vary substantially from one person to the next and from condition to condition, it is difficult to provide a definite set of signs and symptoms that indicate emergency treatment is necessary. However, general guidelines may be useful when determining if it is time to call 911.

Variations in Pain: Signs that May Indicate a Medical Emergency

If you or someone you love needs emergency medical care, you may debate whether to call for an ambulance or just drive yourself. There are certain instances when you should never drive yourself to the emergency room: Two such instances are if you have heart attack or stroke symptoms.

If the pain in your chest is accompanied by any of the following, its probability for representing a dangerous condition rises; therefore, call 911:

  • You are 40 years of age or older
  • Early onset of cardiovascular disease (i.e., heart disease) runs in your family
  • You have risk factors for coronary artery disease (CAD) — smoking, diabetes, family history, elevated cholesterol levels and/or obesity
  • You can feel the pain in your shoulder, jaw and/or arms
  • The pain is severe and gradually getting worse

In addition, if the pain you are experiencing is accompanied by any of the following, you may be having a heart attack and you need to call 911:

  • A squeezing, tight, heavy or crushing sensation in your chest
  • Nausea
  • Weakness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Dizziness
  • Sweating
  • Fainting

Less Serious Signs and Symptoms

These are just guidelines; therefore, whenever in doubt, the adage “better safe than sorry” should be followed.

If you are experiencing chest pain that is accompanied by any of the following, it is less likely to represent a life-threatening cardiac event:

  • Your pain only lasts for a moment
  • You are not experiencing any other symptoms
  • You have experienced this pain before and cardiac problems were ruled out
  • Your pain only occurs when you move a certain way

Again, if the pain is persistent, severe or getting worse, you should seek medical attention immediately.

Calling 911

The symptoms associated with a heart attack and stroke are many and, in the event that you or a loved one is experiencing one of these life-threatening conditions, those symptoms could arise at any time. An emergency medical technician (EMT) is trained in how to treat someone with heart attack or stroke symptoms; therefore, he or she can assist you, or your loved one on the way to the emergency room. This early treatment could prevent a lifelong disability or even death.

If you are concerned that you may have a heart condition, or you have already been diagnosed with cardiovascular disease, Tri-City Cardiology has a group of dedicated, board-certified cardiologists available to assist you with all your cardiovascular needs. In addition, if a cardiac emergency arises, we offer world-class emergency heart treatment.

To schedule an appointment, please contact us today by calling 480-835-6100 or, if you prefer, click here to complete our online form.