Chest pain is a leading causing for ER visits in the U.S. with upwards of 6 million visits each year. Patients present to the ER, an Urgicare Center or a physician office complaining of chest pain, either intermittent or progressive, that radiates into the shoulders, arms, and jaw or becomes worse with exertion. These patients require more than an EKG to rule out a cardiac source, most often, coronary artery disease, as the cause of their chest pain. Unfortunately, based solely upon a normal EKG, patients are discharged prematurely with wrong diagnoses of gastric reflux disease, gallbladder disease, chest wall strains or panic disorders. Some of these patients will, unfortunately, succumb to a fatal heart attack days afterward.
The most serious risk posed by coronary artery disease is sudden death due to heart failure. Upon autopsy, 90 plus percent of sudden heart death victims, have 2 or more coronary arteries that are dangerously narrowed or blocked entirely by plaque. As shown in the illustration, when coronary arteries become blocked, those areas of the heart supplied by the block are deprived of blood flow. When this happens, if the blockage goes untreated, the heart muscle (myocardium) stops contracting normally and eventually will die (myocardial infarction).