Each year, Western Lane Ambulance District (WLAD) responds to numerous emergency medical calls for Chest Pain. Many people who call 911 requesting WLAD Paramedics for chest pain, fear they are having a heart attack. However, there are many possible causes of chest pain; which is a discomfort or pain you feel anywhere along the front of your body between your neck and upper abdomen.

It is imperative to call 911 whenever you experience sudden crushing, squeezing, tightening, or pressure in the chest or the pain spreads to the jaw, left arm or between your shoulder blades. Nausea, vomiting, sweating, or shortness of breath are also signs to be concerned about.

Also call 911 if you have a history of angina and the symptoms occur at rest or are brought on by lighter activity. Never assume the chest pain is anything other than a heart attack, such false assumptions may cause serious illness or death. Only a qualified health professional can determine the exact cause of chest pain.

Oftentimes the chest pain is caused by Angina or a heart attack. The most common symptoms of that type of chest pain is a chest tightness, heavy pressure, squeezing or crushing pain. The pain may spread to the arm, shoulder jaw or back.

A tear in the wall of the aorta, the large blood vessel that takes blood from the heart to the rest of their body (aortic dissection) causes sudden, severe pain in the chest and upper back.

Swelling or inflammation in the sac surrounding the heart causes a condition called paricarditis and also causes pain in the center of the chest.

Lung problems can also cause chest pain and includes blood clots (pulmonary embolism), collapsed lungs (pneumothorax), pneumonia and swelling of the lining of the lung (pleurisy).

Other causes of chest pain include panic attacks, inflammation where the ribs join the breast bone or sternum, shingles which causes sharp tingling pain on one side that stretches from the stretches from the chest to the back, and may cause a rash.

Chest pain can also be caused by digestive system problems such as spasms or narrowing of the esophagus, gallstone pain or heartburn or gastro esophageal reflux (GERD).

What to expect when the paramedic ambulance arrives: WLAD paramedics are highly trained with years of college education and a great deal of field experience, therefore they have vast experience dealing with chest pain emergencies.

While setting up for treatment, you may be asked questions such as what were you doing when the pain started, what does it feel like, where does it originate and does it spread into the arms, neck or back – how severe is the pain and when did it start. You will be asked about medical history, current medications and allergies, recent surgeries, etc.

Emergency medical treatment for chest pain may include gaining vital signs such as pulse, respirations, blood pressure, and oxygen saturation levels. WLAD ambulances are equipped with state of the art 12 lead Electro Cardiogram Machines (ECG) which can detect specific ECG changes that can determine if a patient is having an acute heart attack.

Oxygen is oftentimes offered to the patient, depending on the severity of the shortness of breath. Next, an intravenous line (IV) is placed into the vein in order to provide a route for cardiac medications if needed, or if the patient needs an influx of saline solutions. WLAD paramedic ambulances carry an array of cardiac medications, with Nitroglycerine being a common first line drug.

If the patient is suffering a life threatening heart attack necessitating a higher level hospital with a cardiac surgery center, then oftentimes the patient is transported there in a timely and efficient manner. Sometimes this involves the patient being diverted there from home, especially if the patient is already a bit closer (such as Mapleton, Swisshome or Deadwood) to the cardiac surgery center; or a air medical helicopter can be called upon for rapid transport there.

If the patient is brought into Peace Harbor Hospital in Florence and it is deemed that they need to be transferred to a cardiology center such as Sacred Heart Medical Center Riverbend, then WLAD has a specially equipped Mobile Intensive Care Unit (MICU) staffed with MICU Paramedics trained and experienced for such specialty transports.

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