Chest pain: When should you call 911?

Archive, June, Month

With potentially devastating results, cardiologists urge everyone to not wait to call 911.

The line between being overly cautious and not wanting to cause a commotion can be potentially dangerous.

For people experiencing chest pain or any minor discomfort, the sensation may be a passing annoyance and gone in a few minutes. But it could also be a sign of something serious to come.

The question then becomes: When do you call 911 for chest pain?

Dr. Timothy Logan, a McLaren interventional cardiologist, says simply, “If you’re having symptoms where you think you might be having a heart attack, call 911.”

These symptoms don’t have to be the traditional “crushing” chest tightness with pain down the left arm. The symptoms may come on suddenly and be subtle at first before worsening.

“If you’re having chest pain, shortness of breath with sudden onset, you do not want to sit at home, and you do not want your family to drive you,” Dr. Logan said. “If you drive yourself to the hospital — you could even have cardiac arrest in the car.”

The emergency medicine technicians in the ambulance will have the training and knowledge to begin initial treatments while en route. They also have the experience and familiarity with local hospitals’ capability and proficiency to treat heart attack.

Early signs of a heart attack

  • Sudden onset chest discomfort
  • Shortness of breath
  • Discomfort in the arms, back, neck, jaw or stomach
  • Cold sweats
  • Nausea
  • Lightheadedness

While women experience the same symptoms, they are more likely than men to feel the lesser-common symptoms of nausea (accompanied by vomiting), back and jaw pain and shortness of breath without chest pain. Chest pain may also repeatedly go away and come back.