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Chest Pain


Chest pain is any discomfort between your abdomen and your neck. The pain may be only in your chest or it may move to other body areas.


You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment.


Without treatment, the cause of your chest pain may get worse. This could be life-threatening.


Informed consent

is a legal document that explains the tests, treatments, or procedures that you may need. Informed consent means you understand what will be done and can make decisions about what you want. You give your permission when you sign the consent form. You can have someone sign this form for you if you are not able to sign it. You have the right to understand your medical care in words you know. Before you sign the consent form, understand the risks and benefits of what will be done. Make sure all your questions are answered.


  • Antacids: You may need antacids to decrease stomach acid.
  • Antianxiety medicine: This medicine may be given to decrease anxiety and help you feel calm and relaxed.
  • Antiulcer medicine: This medicine helps decrease the amount of acid that is normally made by the stomach.
  • Aspirin: This medicine may be given to help thin the blood to keep blood clots from forming. This medicine makes it more likely for you to bleed or bruise.
  • Blood thinners: This medicine helps prevent clots from forming in the blood. Clots can cause strokes, heart attacks, and death. Blood thinners make it more likely for you to bleed or bruise. Use an electric razor and soft toothbrush to help prevent bleeding.
  • Heart medicine: This medicine is given to strengthen or regulate your heartbeat. It also may help your heart in other ways. Talk with your caregiver to find out what your heart medicine is and why you are taking it.
  • Nitroglycerin: This medicine may also be called nitro. Nitroglycerin opens the arteries to your heart so the heart gets more oxygen. Nitroglycerin can be given in an IV, by mouth, or put on your body as a patch or paste.
  • Pain medicine: Caregivers may give you medicine to take away or decrease your pain. Tell caregivers right away if you start feeling discomfort, pressure, burning, or tightness in your chest. Tell caregivers right away if you start sweating, have trouble breathing, or feel discomfort in your arm, back, neck, or jaw. Any of these may be a sign that your heart is not getting enough oxygen, and may need medicine to help.


Caregivers may use one or more of the following to keep track of how you are doing.

  • Heart monitor: This is also called an ECG or EKG. Sticky pads placed on your skin record your heart's electrical activity.
  • Pulse oximeter: A pulse oximeter is a device that measures the amount of oxygen in your blood. A cord with a clip or sticky strip is placed on your finger, ear, or toe. The other end of the cord is hooked to a machine. Never turn the pulse oximeter or alarm off. An alarm will sound if your oxygen level is low or cannot be read.
  • Vital signs: Caregivers will check your blood pressure, heart rate, breathing rate, and temperature. They will also ask about your pain. These vital signs give caregivers information about your current health.

Tests and treatments:

The tests and treatments you may need depend on what is causing your symptoms. Your care may include one or more of the following. Ask your caregivers for more information about other tests and treatments you may need.

  • Blood tests: You may need blood taken to give caregivers information about how your body is working. The blood may be taken from your hand, arm, or IV.
  • Cardiac catheterization: This is a procedure done to find the cause of and treat a heart condition. A thin, bendable tube inserted into an arm, neck, or groin vein is moved into your heart. Your caregiver may use an x-ray to guide the tube to the right place. Dye (contrast) may be put into your vein so the pictures show up better on a monitor.
  • Chest x-ray: This is a picture of your lungs and heart. Caregivers use it to see how your lungs and heart are doing. Caregivers may use the x-ray to look for signs of infection like pneumonia, or to look for collapsed lungs. Chest x-rays may show tumors, broken ribs, or fluid around the heart and lungs.
  • Echocardiogram: This test is a type of ultrasound. Sound waves are used to show the structure, movement, and blood vessels of your heart.
  • An IV (intravenous) is a small tube placed in your vein that is used to give you medicine or liquids.
  • Oxygen: You may need extra oxygen if your blood oxygen level is lower than it should be. You may get oxygen through a mask placed over your nose and mouth or through small tubes placed in your nostrils. Ask your caregiver before you take off the mask or oxygen tubing.
  • Heart monitor: This test is also called an EKG or ECG. Sticky pads are placed on your skin to record your heart's electrical activity. An EKG gives information about how your heart is working. Lie as still as possible during the test.
  • Upper GI x-rays: During an upper GI series, an x-ray machine is used to take pictures of your stomach and intestines (bowel). You may be given a chalky liquid to drink before the pictures are taken. This liquid helps your stomach and intestines show up better on the x-rays. An upper GI series can show if you have an ulcer, a blocked intestine, or other problems.
  • V/Q Scan: This is a ventilation (V) and perfusion (Q) test. This test is also called a VP scan. A V/Q scan is a two-part test which takes pictures of your lungs to look for certain lung problems.
    • During the perfusion part of the test, radioactive dye is put into your vein (blood vessel). The blood carries the dye to the blood vessels in your lungs. Pictures are taken to see how blood flows in your lungs.
    • During the ventilation part of the test, you breathe in special gas. Pictures are taken to see how well your lungs take in oxygen.


You may need to rest in bed until your chest pain is under control. Your caregiver will tell you when it is okay to get out of bed. Call your caregiver before you get up for the first time. Sit or lie down right away if you feel weak or dizzy. Then call your caregiver.

© 2016 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.