When a person has chest pain, alarm bells can go off. As a result, over 8 million people visit the hospital every year, thinking chest pain is a sign of a life-threatening issue. Occasional chest pain is common and often not dangerous, but chronic chest pain is another matter. While some people have non-cardiac chest pain (NCCP), other individuals have angina, a severe health risk. In some cases, doctors will suggest a long-term treatment option, like a heart cath. This procedure can reduce symptoms and improve the quality of life.
Understanding chronic chest pain
Angina is a form of chronic chest pain that stems from a disruption of blood flow to the heart. The heart is a muscular organ made of tissue that functions like the body's other muscles. The heart pumps oxygen-rich blood throughout the body and needs that blood to work effectively. When there’s a lack of oxygenated blood, several symptoms, like chronic chest pain, can occur. Angina is often a warning sign of coronary artery disease (CAD) or a heart attack. Common symptoms of angina include chest pain, pressure, tightness, nausea, and dizziness. Some angina patients report heartburn-like symptoms and back, neck, or jawline pain. While some people live long lives with angina, chronic chest pain can lead to life-threatening incidents like heart attacks or strokes if left untreated.
Don’t ignore this condition
Non-cardiac chest pain can originate from stress, anxiety, indigestion, or musculoskeletal pain. However, the difficulty most hospitals face is that angina is challenging to distinguish from other forms of chest pain. Therefore, doctors recommend an immediate emergency room (ER) visit for any chronic chest pain. Even if the pain disappears, see a cardiologist to determine if the issue is angina. NCCP can benefit from various treatment options, including rest and lifestyle changes. Angina will need specific medications to help improve blood flow and reduce pain. The patient will also need additional tests to confirm CAD, heart disease, or other heart-related conditions.
Is a heart cath the answer?
For some angina patients, a doctor may recommend cardiac catheterization, also known as a heart cath. The procedure involves passing a small, flexible tube called a catheter through major blood vessels that carry blood to the heart. The doctor will use imaging technology to view the heart. From there, the doctor can perform a series of follow-up procedures to treat an existing issue. For instance, the doctor may pass a contrast dye to measure blood flow or use devices to measure the pressure in the heart. In other cases, a tiny balloon can clear up signs of plaque buildup in the arteries, or a stent can secure nearby blood vessels.
Heart cath benefits
Cardiac catheterization can diagnose an existing issue, allowing the doctor to devise a treatment plan. During the heart cath, the doctor can find the root cause. The procedure can also lead to treating an underlying issue, which can relieve chest pain and symptoms of angina. A heart cath can also reduce the chances of heart attacks or strokes.
Heart to heart
Chronic chest pain can be concerning. While most cases aren’t related to a heart condition, all symptoms must be taken seriously. A heart cath can help angina patients if medication and other treatment options fail. The procedure is the next step for long-term pain relief and addressing the underlying condition. Along with lifestyle changes, angina patients can have a better quality of life.