Share The Health

The FMH Chest Pain Center

12-02-2015

Heart attacks are the leading cause of death in the United States, taking 600,000 lives each year. Formerly associated with middle-aged and older men, heart disease is currently on the rise in women–most notably in post-menopausal women where the rate of heart disease is between two and three times higher than in pre-menopausal women of the same age. Many are surprised to learn that it is coronary heart disease—not breast cancer– that is the number one killer of women over the age of 25.

If you or someone you know experiences chest pain, call 911 and get to a hospital immediately. Don’t take chances! It’s always wise to seek evaluation– that’s why more than five million Americans visit hospital’s every year with chest pain. But, as it turns out, many patients who come to the Emergency Room experiencing apparent symptoms of a heart attack are not actually having one.

So how is chest pain diagnosed?

“An important part of diagnosing chest pain is history,” says FMH Chest Pain Center program coordinator Tom Shupp. “Learning about the nature of the pain gives the healthcare team direction as to which diagnoses are reasonable to consider, and which can be reasonably excluded. Understanding the patient’s risk factors for heart disease—along with the quality and quantity of the pain, and its associated symptoms– help the care team assess the probability of what potential diagnoses should be considered and which should be discarded.”

The FMH Chest Pain Center (CPC) is a dedicated clinical observation unit for low-risk patients who come to the hospital with chest pain. Located within the hospital’s 4th floor telemetry unit, the CPC uses a team approach with physicians and staff to reduce time to treatment during the critical early stages of a heart attack when treatment is most effective.

“Everyone knows their job and works together in a supportive, respectful team environment to rapidly make decisions,” said FMH Chest Pain Center Medical Director Dr. Mark Levangie. “Our staff has the highest level of expertise, access to the most advanced technology and the best tools available to care for patients in the event of a cardiac emergency.”

In addition, the FMH Chest Pain Center has demonstrated an ongoing commitment to meeting or exceeding quality-of-care measures related to the care for acute coronary syndrome patients including:

  • Integrating the hospital’s emergency department with the local emergency medical system.
  • Assessing, diagnosing and treating patients quickly.
  • Effectively treating patients with low risk for acute coronary syndrome.
  • Ensuring that all Chest Pain Center personnel are well-trained.
  • Continually monitoring and improving its processes and procedures.
  • Supporting community outreach and education about heart attack symptoms.

If you think you’re having a heart attack, don’t wait. If you experience any of the following symptoms, call 9-1-1 or proceed to the closest emergency room:

  • Pressure, fullness, squeezing pain in the center of the chest, spreading to the neck, shoulder or jaw
  • Chest discomfort with lightheadedness, fainting, sweating, nausea, or shortness of breath
  • Upper abdominal pressure or discomfort
  • Lower chest discomfort
  • Back pain
  • Unusual fatigue
  • Unusual shortness of breath
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea

Keep in mind that for women, the symptoms are just as dire, but are often much more subtle (and easier to ignore):

  • Chest discomfort – often described as pressure rather than acute pain in women
  • Discomfort in other parts of the body – one or both arms, the back, jaw, or stomach
  • Shortness of breath – with or without chest discomfort
  • Cold sweat, nausea, or lightheadedness

To learn more about the Chest Pain Center and Heart Care at FMH, visit fmh.org/Heart.