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Posts Tagged ‘heberden angina’

When a patient comes with angina at rest , it could mean two things .Either a  STEMI or an NSTEMI .This , we can diagnose only after seeing the ECG .

Can we differentiate these two by the  character of chest pain alone ?

Very  tough task isn’t  ? But there are some definite clues .

Infarct  pain

  • Is mostly sudden .
  • Likely to be crescendo , lasts more than 20-30 minutes .
  • Fails to get relived by rest or even  Nitrites.
  • Sweating due to sympathetic activation is more pronounced.

Unstable angina

  • Is rarely  sudden .Often has a pro-drome.
  • UA is  mostly precipitated by an increased demand situation or a stress.
  • It has  a typical waxing and waning  pattern . Rarely assume a true  crescendo character  as myocytes  does not necrose (Just threaten to die !)
  • The chest pain radiation   to  shoulder is less  conspicuous , instead it  tends to  reach  the  jaw area .(* An observation,Is it something to do with multi-vessel CAD in UA ?)

Mechanism of the difference : Epicardial vs Endocardial angina

The pain of UA is   due to subtotal occlusion and  endocardial ischemia , while STEMI is  sudden total occlusion  and the resultant  transmural  ischemia . In STEMI  epicardial  surface is always involved (Which lifts the ST segment in ECG .).We know epicardium  is same as  visceral layer of pericardium which is well innervated .Hence  pain  of STEMI   acquires  more of somatic character  than a  predominately visceral type pain  that occurs with  UA/NSTEMI where epicardial ischemia is absent.

Clinical importance

The demarcation between unstable angina and Infarct pain becomes vital when we calculate the time window for thrombolysing STEMI .Many of them have a phase of pre infarction angina which is a type of unstable angina. If we mistake it for Infarct pain then one may falsely calculate a prolonged time window and deny re-perfusion therapy.

Post -amble

It is tricky issue  to differentiate the  chest pain of  STEMI and NSTEMI  .A significant overlap can occur  in  real coronary care scenario . We know   chest pain  that occurs in both   pre and post infarct  phase  is considered  as unstable angina .(With infarct pain sandwiched between them!) Hence differentiating  them may even be termed as futile.

Still,clinical cardiology  can be  made  fascinating by indulging in such exercise !

 

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