Chest Pain Health (cont.)

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Early medical intervention improves survival in potentially life-threatening illnesses involving chest pain.

Heart attack and unstable angina: Heart disease, which includes heart attacks and angina, is the leading cause of death for American adults. Almost 900,000 people die each year from cardiovascular disease, according to the American Heart Association. Whether you survive a heart attack depends on the time it takes to get medical treatment, the region and extent of injury within the heart, and the presence of any other risk factors.

Aortic dissection: This condition is life-threatening. Quick action in getting medical treatment is essential with aortic dissection. When left untreated, about 33% of patients die within the first 24 hours, and 50% die within 48 hours. The two week mortality rate approaches 75% in patients with undiagnosed ascending aortic dissection. One study from the University of Michigan showed that 90 percent of patients who survive emergency surgery and hospitalization for its most serious form will still be alive three years later.

Pulmonary embolism: Even with early treatment, 1 in 10 people with pulmonary embolism die within the first hour. The American Heart Association statistics show that around 600,000 Americans develop pulmonary embolism each year, and around 60,000 die from it. It is treatable if it is not rapidly severe and caught early. Patients are often maintained on blood thinners as treatment.

Pneumothorax: Most people with this condition recover fully as long as it is not associated with other life-threatening injuries (like in an auto accident). It occurs mostly tall, thin, young people without lung disease. Patients who have had one spontaneous pneumothorax have about a 50% chance of recurrence. Other illnesses causing pneumothorax and complications from the chest tube placement may prolong or worsen the condition.

Perforated viscus: With early detection and intervention, the prognosis for perforated viscus is good in relatively healthy people. If you are in poor health prior to the perforation you will have a worse outcome.

Acute pericarditis: Although the course may vary with each person, the outcome is good if the disorder is treated promptly. Most people recover in two weeks to three months.

Pneumonia: In young, healthy adults, the prognosis for pneumonia is good with appropriate treatment. Prognosis is generally poorer in the elderly and in people with weakened immune systems such as those with HIV/AIDS.

Chest pain originating from the esophagus: Reflux disease (GERD) affects about one-fourth of the adult population and has a very low death rate. Esophagitis may lead to ulcerations, scarring, or narrowing of the esophagus. With the exception of possible perforation, which has a high death rate, the overall prognosis is good. Esophageal spasm has a good outcome.

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