Chest Pains

Studies clearly show that the most important thing to do if you have chest pain or stroke symptoms is to get an ambulance to hospital immediately. Going to a GP first, adds about an hour to the time before the specialists in the hospital can begin lifesaving treatments. These treatments are NOT available in a GP's office.

If in doubt, get to hospital as soon as you can, preferably in an ambulance.

A heart attack occurs when there is a sudden blockage of one of the coronary arteries that supplies an area of the heart. As a result of the interruption to the blood supply, there is an immediate risk of life-threatening changes to the heart rhythm If not corrected quickly there is also a risk of serious, permanent heart muscle damage. To reduce the chance of sudden death from heart attack urgent medical care is required - "every minute counts". Dial 000.

A person's survival after heart attack can be improved by modern treatments and clot-dissolving medications that clear the blocked artery, restore blood supply to the heart muscle and limit damage to the heart. The therapies are most effective if administered as soon as possible following the onset of symptoms with these benefits declining with delays in treatment.

Recognition

Cardiac arrest may occur as the first sign of heart attack for some people - however most experience some warning signs. Special considerations in relation to warning signs include:

  • Heart attacks can occur in people who do not have chest pain as one of their symptoms.
  • People who experience heart attack may pass off their symptoms as 'just indigestion'.

Warning signs

The warning signs of heart attack usually last for at least 10 minutes. If the warning signs are severe, or get worse quickly, do not wait, act immediately.

The victim may experience more than one of these symptoms:

  • Discomfort or pain in the centre of the chest that may come on suddenly, or start slowly over minutes. It may be described as tightness, heaviness, fullness or squeezing. The pain may be severe, moderate or mild.
  • The pain may spread to the neck, throat, jaw, shoulders, the back, either or both arms and into the wrists and hands.
  • The pain may be limited to the neck, throat, jaw, shoulders, the back, either or both arms and into the wrists and hands.

Other signs and symptoms may include:

  • shortness of breath
  • nausea or vomiting
  • sweating
  • feeling dizzy or light-headed

Additional information may be found at:

The Australian Resuscitation Council Online (http://www.resus.org.au)