Conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh is resting comfortably at Queen’s Medical Center in Honolulu, Hawaii. Limbaugh, 58, was rushed to the hospital on Wednesday, after suffering from chest pain, described as “similar to a heart attack.” Whether these symptoms were actually caused by a heart attack has not been disclosed, but just as “all that glitters is not gold,” all chest pain is not necessarily a heart attack.
Chest pain is a non-specific term that simply defines that there is a pain anywhere in the chest. There are cardiac (heart related), and noncardiac causes.
Heart problems that cause chest pain:
- Angina: This pain occurs when the heart is not getting enough blood and oxygen. It is most commonly caused by narrowing of the coronary arteries (the arteries which supply blood to the heart muscle) by artherosclerosis. Chest pain occurs behind the breast bone or slightly to the left of it and may feel like tightness, heavy pressure, squeezing, or crushing pain. The pain may spread to the arm, shoulder, jaw, or back. At first, angina may be considered stable. The chest pain only occurs with activity or stress and does not change much in frequency or severity over time.
- Heart attack pain can be similar to the pain of unstable angina, but more severe. Unstable angina is chest pain that is sudden and gets increasingly worse. This chest pain:
- Occurs without cause -at rest, or when sleeping
- Lasts longer than 15 – 20 minutes
- Responds poorly to a medicine called nitroglycerin
- May occur along with a drop in blood pressure or significant shortness of breath
People with unstable angina are at increased risk of having a heart attack.
- Aortic dissection causes sudden, severe pain in the chest and upper back.
- Inflammation or infection in the tissue around the heart (pericarditis) causes pain in the center part of the chest.
Lung problems that can cause chest pain:
- Pneumonia: an infection in the lungs which causes chest pain that usually feels sharp, and often gets worse with a deep breath or cough
- A blood clot in the lung (pulmonary embolism), collapse of a small area of the lung (pneumothorax), or inflammation of the lining around the lung (pleurisy) can cause chest pain that usually feels sharp, and often gets worse with a deep breath or cough
- Asthma: which generally also causes shortness of breath, wheezing, or coughing
Digestive system problems that can cause chest pain:
- Heartburn or gastroesophageal reflux (GERD)
- Stomach ulcer (burning pain occurs when the stomach is empty and feels better with eating)
- Gallbladder pain ( gets worse after a meal, especially a fatty meal)
Other causes of chest pain:
- Strain or inflammation of the muscles and tendons between the ribs
- Inflammation where the ribs join the breast bone or sternum (costochondritis)
- Shingles (sharp, tingling pain on one side that stretches from the chest to the back). Shingles is a reactivation of chickenpox that has been laying inactive in nerve cells near the spine.
- Anxiety attacks and rapid breathing (hyperventilation)
For more information:
Rush Limbaugh just held a press conference where he announced that he has been checked out, and that he does not have heart disease. The 58 year old radio commentator says that he was extensively tested, and that his work-up included a test called an angiogram. He also stated that was grateful that he received the best medical care in the world- “right here in the United States of America… I don’t think there’s one thing wrong with the United States health system.”
A coronary angiogram is a test used to check the arteries which supply blood to the heart muscle- the coronary arteries. Before the test starts, the patient is given a mild sedative to help them relax.
An area of the body, typically the arm or groin, is cleaned and numbed with a local numbing medicine (anesthetic). The cardiologist passes a thin hollow tube, called a catheter, through an artery and carefully moves it up into the heart. X-ray images help the doctor position the catheter.
Once the catheter is in place, dye (contrast material) is injected into the catheter. X-ray images are taken to see how the dye moves through the artery. The dye helps highlight any blockages in blood flow.
To watch a demonstration of a coronary angiogram, click here.