The Truth About Chest Pain

Man clutching chest

Heart attacks don't always announce themselves like they do in the movies — with people clutching their chest, doubled over in pain.

Sometimes cardiac symptoms are more subtle and may even start slowly. Whatever the cause, chest pain is not normal and warrants medical attention right away. If you are concerned that you may be experiencing a heart attack, call 9-1-1.

Know the Symptoms

Most heart attacks involve discomfort in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes, or that goes away and comes back. It can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain. However, there can be other symptoms, particularly in women.

Symptoms that females should be aware of may include:

  • Pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.
  • Shortness of breath with or without chest discomfort.
  • Experiencing a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness.

Seek help immediately! Any delay in treatment could result in a worse outcome.


Preventing a Heart Attack

Chest pain or discomfort may be caused by plaque buildup narrowing or blocking the coronary arteries. "It is important to recognize new cardiac symptoms and seek help immediately," says Doylestown Health interventional cardiologist Steve Guidera, MD. "Ignoring new cardiac symptoms or delaying care doesn’t help. Listen to your body – we can help!"

When a blockage is diagnosed, a tiny wire tube called a stent can be placed by an interventional cardiologist to prop open an artery and help restore blood flow. Stents are delivered via a guided catheter through a blood vessel to the blockage.

Stents can stop damage to heart muscle and prevent serious cardiovascular issues, like heart attack and heart failure. The sooner a patient is treated through cardiac catheterization (balloon angioplasty), the less damage to the heart.

Doylestown Health's 56-minute average "first medical contact to balloon inflation time" is well ahead of the national 90-minute standard. Calling 9-1-1 expedites this process.

When in Doubt, Call 9-1-1

Time is muscle, as the saying goes. The sooner a heart attack patient receives treatment, the better the outcome. That treatment can begin even before the patient arrives at the hospital by calling 9-1-1.

The Impact of COVID-19 on Cardiac Emergency

Unfortunately, many people did not seek timely care for cardiac emergencies nationwide and lost their lives during the COVID-19 pandemic out of fear of catching the virus. This included some in the Doylestown community, notes Dr. Guidera.

This is particularly unfortunate because, thanks to the safety measures put in place very early in the pandemic, the hospital remains a “very safe” environment, he adds. It’s important to remember that a decision to delay care by not going to the emergency department may result in significant disability or death, Dr. Guidera emphasizes.

Accredited Chest Pain Center

Doylestown Health's Woodall Chest Pain Center first received accreditation from the Society of Cardiovascular Patient Care (SCPC), just after the new Emergency Department opened in 2010. The accreditation signifies the hospital's efficiency and effectiveness in treating heart attack and other cardiac issues that present with chest pain. Doylestown Hospital also received the American College of Cardiology’s National Cardiovascular Data Registry (NCDR) Chest Pain ΜΆ MI Registry Platinum Performance Achievement Award in 2020.

Nationally Recognized Heart and Vascular Care

Doylestown Health's Woodall Center for Heart and Vascular Care has been nationally recognized for high-quality care and patient safety. Doylestown Hospital was named one of the nation's 50 Top Cardiovascular Hospitals by IBM Watson Health TM and rated as "high performing" in aortic value surgery, heart bypass surgery and heart failure by U.S. News & World Report.

About Doylestown Health's Heart & Vascular Services

Expert cardiologists and cardiac surgeons assist patients and physicians with managing risk factors for heart disease, offer advanced treatment options and provide outstanding emergency cardiac care. Doylestown Hospital’s accredited Chest Pain Center is fully prepared to treat cardiac emergencies around the clock, focusing on rapid diagnosis and effective treatment. The multidisciplinary team at the Woodall Center for Heart and Vascular Care is dedicated to providing the highest level of quality care and patient safety.

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