Posts Tagged ‘differential diagnosis for chest pain’

Spinal cord is a busy  neurological  highway to brain .It  runs  24/7  non stop  with unlimited  horizontal and vertical lanes .It is such a compact  structure , it can  easily  get confounded   when multiple signals converge,  diverge, summate , deduct , reflect back,   or cancel out .
A 64 year old women came to me for  second opinion  regarding   chest pain . A  cardiologist  had  just adviced her  an  emergency   coronary  angiogram and also suggested she may require an  urgent  PCI  as well .
I listened to her history in my office  . . .  In  her own words .
Doctor , I am  getting  sudden   compressing  type of  pain which  starts in the centre of the chest and soon transmits to the left shoulder and  gradually reach the inner aspect of the hand up to the little finger . And occasionally it is very severe and some times i feel like sweating as well ! I am unable to predict when it comes doctor !
It was  so convincing  but one  feature was  not fitting In . She said , she used to walk  daily   and do all house hold work with no pain . She also  recalled about the  acid peptic disease , and neck pain periodically due to cervical spine problem.
Her resting ECG was normal .She was  afraid to do a stress test . After thinking  for a minute , I had no  other option  but  to endorse  my colleague’s view and asked her  to go for coronary angiogram .
One  thing I  suggested differently was , I told her it was not an  emergency , I also  conveyed my gut feeling  that it is unlikely to cardiac  pain . One week  later  CAG through radial route  was done . Both of  us were  happy  to find a  normal  coronary  angiogram !

Final message

Pain is a  feeling . It can be  perceived  at  multiple levels  . The site of origin , spill over on transit and at the level of brain .  A patient with multiple  potential source for pain can either summate , deduct , reflect  or cancel out .This can confuse the clinician in a dramatic fashion as it did to us ! . To complicate the matters  further , gastric pain can trigger a cervical  pain and vice versa . (Spill over effect)

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