Chest pain is a common theme running throughout Channel 9’s Paramedics (Thursdays at 8.30pm), which is no surprise – Ambulance Victoria is called to around 60,000 reports of chest pain each year.
On this week’s episode, worried husband Robert calls an ambulance when his wife, 78-year old Judy, complains of severe chest pain. And in an earlier episode, we followed the story of Robin, 75, who is suffering chest pain and anxiety.
Judy has a history of atrial fibrillation, which is a type of abnormal heart rhythm (arrhythmia). It causes an irregular, fast heartbeat. But she has never experienced chest pain before.
“On the way to the job I’m thinking, are they having chest pain because their heart is beating too fast? Or are they having chest pain because they are having a heart attack. Either way, this could be very serious,” says paramedic Leonard on the show.
Paramedics keep a close eye on Judy with her history of atrial fibrillation.
Robin’s neighbour, Jay, called Triple Zero (000) when she heard her friend was in pain. “Robin called me, every time he breathed, he was in pain. He said: ‘Jay I think I’m dying’.”
Robin’s anxiety over his heart health stems from a strong family history of heart disease.
“He (my father) was young, and my mother died at 54 (from) heart disease,” Robin tells paramedic Leonard in the ambulance as they travel to hospital.
Robin’s friend Jay called an ambulance when he complained of chest pain.
X-rays reveal that the source of Robin’s chest pain is two broken ribs, caused by a fall earlier that day.
Judy is also given a clean bill of health after some tests in hospital.
Despite the good news that the source of their pain was nothing serious, Robin and Judy’s loved ones did the right thing in calling an ambulance. Chest pain can be serious, and may indicate the person is in trouble.
One in 15 calls to Ambulance Victoria for chest pain turn out to be someone having a heart attack.
Chest pain is any pain felt in the chest. It may be caused by temporary poor blood flow to the heart (angina) or by a sudden blockage in the coronary arteries resulting in a heart attack.
If you or someone with you has chest pain, call Triple Zero (000) for an ambulance.
Heart Foundation figures show 1,945 Victorians died from a heart attack in 2016. The good news is the number of heart attack deaths in Victoria has fallen by 26.8% since 2007.
Many Australians die of heart attack because they don’t know the signs or wait too long to act. Symptoms of a heart attack may vary from person to person, and can include:
- severe crushing pain in the centre of your chest or behind the breastbone – you may feel this as a squeezing, tightening, choking or heavy pressure feeling
- pain spreading to the shoulders, arms, neck, throat, jaw or back
- feeling anxious, dizzy or unwell
- a sick feeling in the stomach
- being short of breath
- symptoms that often last 10 to 15 minutes or more.
Other possible causes of chest pain include indigestion and muscle strain. Aside from the heart, there are many parts of the chest that can cause pain including the lungs, oesophagus, muscle, bone and skin. There can also be referred pain from the abdomen.
The most important thing to remember is if in doubt, don’t wait. Call Triple Zero (000).
Visit the Better Health Channel for tips on living a healthy lifestyle and reducing your risk of heart attack, and where to get more information on chest pain and its causes.
Catch-up on episodes of Paramedics on 9Now.
Sources: Better Health Channel, Department of Health and Human Services