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Chest pain

Heart attack symptoms

Definition

Chest pain is discomfort or pain that you feel anywhere along the front of your body between your neck and upper abdomen.

Alternative Names

Chest tightness; Chest pressure; Chest discomfort

Considerations

Many people with chest pain fear a heart attack. However, there are many possible causes of chest pain. Some causes are not dangerous to your health, while other causes are serious and, in some cases, life-threatening.

Any organ or tissue in your chest can be the source of pain, including your heart, lungs, esophagus, muscles, ribs, tendons, or nerves. Pain may also spread to the chest from the neck, abdomen, and back.

Causes

Heart or blood vessel problems that can cause chest pain:

Lung problems that can cause chest pain:

Other causes of chest pain:

Chest pain can also be due to the following digestive system problems:

In children, most chest pain is not caused by the heart.

Home Care

For most causes of chest pain, it is best to check with your doctor or nurse before treating yourself at home.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call 911 if:

Your risk of having a heart attack is greater if:

Call your doctor if:

What to Expect at Your Office Visit

Your doctor may ask questions such as:

The types of tests that are done depend on the cause of the pain, and what other medical problems or risk factors you have.

References

Anderson JL, Adams CD, Antman EM, et al. ACC/AHA Guidelines for the Management of Patients With Unstable Angina and Non-ST-Segment Elevation Myocardial Infarction: A Report of the American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association Task Force on Practice Guidelines (Committee on the Management of Patients with Unstable Angina). Circulation. 2007;116:803-877.

Goldman L. Approach to the patient with possible cardiovascular disease. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman's Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 50.

Sabatine MS, Cannon CP. Approach to the patient with chest pain. In: Bonow RO, Mann DL, Zipes DP, Libby P, eds. Braunwald's Heart Disease: A Textbook of Cardiovascular Medicine. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 53.

Jneid H, Anderson JL, Wright RS, et al. 2012 ACCF/AHA Focused Update of the Guideline for the Management of Patients With Unstable Angina/Non-ST-Elevation Myocardial Infarction (Updating the 2007 Guidelines and Replacing the 2011 Focused Update). Circulation. 2012;126.


Review Date: 5/13/2014
Reviewed By: Michael A. Chen, MD, PhD, Associate Professor of Medicine, Division of Cardiology, Harborview Medical Center, University of Washington Medical School, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.