Continuing Medical Education

Approach to chest pain and acute myocardial infarction

Shaheen Pandie, Derek Hellenberg, Farrel Hellig, Mpiko Ntsekhe

Abstract


Patient history, physical examination, 12-lead electrocardiogram (ECG) and cardiac biomarkers are key components of an effective chest pain
assessment. The first priority is excluding serious chest pain syndromes, namely acute coronary syndromes (ACSs), aortic dissection, pulmonary
embolism, cardiac tamponade and tension pneumothorax. On history, the mnemonic SOCRATES (Site Onset Character Radiation Association
Time Exacerbating/relieving factor and Severity) helps differentiate cardiac from non-cardiac pain. On examination, evaluation of vital signs,
evidence of murmurs, rubs, heart failure, tension pneumothoraces and chest infections are important. A 12-lead ECG should be interpreted within
10 minutes of first medical contact, specifically to identify ST elevation myocardial infarction (STEMI). High-sensitivity troponins improve the
rapid rule-out of myocardial infarction (MI) and confirmation of non-ST elevation MI (NSTEMI). ACS (STEMI and NSTEMI/unstable angina
pectoris (UAP)) result from acute destabilisation of coronary atheroma with resultant complete (STEMI) or subtotal (NSTEMI/UAP) thrombotic
coronary occlusion. The management of STEMI patients includes providing urgent reperfusion: primary percutaneous coronary intervention
(PPCI) if available, deliverable within 60 - 120 minutes, and fibrinolysis if PPCI is not available. Essential adjunctive therapies include antiplatelet
therapy (aspirin, P2Y12 inhibitors), anticoagulation (heparin or low-molecular-weight heparin) and cardiac monitoring.


Authors' affiliations

Shaheen Pandie, Division of Cardiology, Department of Medicine, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Cape Town and Groote Schuur Hospital, Cape Town, South Africa

Derek Hellenberg, Division of Family Medicine, School of Public Health and Family Medicine, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Cape Town, South Africa

Farrel Hellig, Sunninghill and Sunward Park Hospitals, Johannesburg, South Africa

Mpiko Ntsekhe, Division of Cardiology, Department of Medicine, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Cape Town and Groote Schuur Hospital, Cape Town, South Africa

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Keywords

Chest pain; Acute myocardial infarction

Cite this article

South African Medical Journal 2016;106(3):239-245. DOI:10.7196/SAMJ.2016.v106i3.10323

Article History

Date submitted: 2015-11-10
Date published: 2015-11-26

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