How Do Paramedics Deal With Chest Pain?

Chest pain encompasses a wide range of possible medical conditions, including indigestion all the way to a heart attack. Because chest pain can be a symptom of so many medical emergencies, paramedics need to thoroughly assess patients in a prehospital setting.

When paramedics respond to emergency calls for chest pain, they perform an assessment, conduct an electrocardiograph (ECG), may administer certain medications such as aspirin or nitroglycerin, and may perform emergency lifesaving procedures, such as CPR or use an automated external defibrillator (AED). In other situations, they may need to utilize other prehospital treatments or interventions, such as endotracheal intubation or non-invasive ventilation techniques.

Knowing how paramedics respond to heart attacks and other chest-related emergencies is critical for your emergency medical services (EMS) career. Luckily, The Paramedic Coach has you covered. If you need an in-depth look at all of the medications that EMS professionals work, our paramedic pharmacology study guide is just the tool you need. In our EMS Medications Mastery Course, you’ll learn everything you need to know about EMS medications, including whether or not EMTs use epinephrine for asthma.

In this post, we’ll focus on how to respond to emergency calls for chest pain. 

Understanding Chest Pain

Many patients report pain in the front of the chest, sometimes described as heaviness, squeezing, dullness, or sharp pressure. Patients may also express shoulder, arm, upper abdomen, and jaw pain. Chest pain can also accompany nausea, shortness of breath, and sweating.

Possible Causes

When we’re responding to chest pain-related calls, remember that the causes of chest pain typically fall into two categories:

  • Heart-related pain, including angina
  • Esophageal rupture and anxiety disorders

If the call you are responding to is regarding a child, some common causes for chest pain in children can include exercise-induced asthma, gastrointestinal illnesses, and musculoskeletal conditions. No matter the cause, chest pain should be treated seriously and promptly.

How EMS Responds

Usually, if someone calls EMS regarding chest pain, it’s important to act fast and be thorough. Failing to assess a patient accurately can have fatal consequences, so here’s what you need to do:

Perform an Assessment

Never forget ABCDE when you are performing an assessment. ABCDE stands for Airway, Breathing, Circulation, Disability, and Exposure. This approach is applicable to all clinical and medical emergencies and can be used to assess and treat a patient immediately. You don’t need any special equipment to conduct an assessment using ABCDE.

The Role of Aspirin

Taking a chewable dose of aspirin can reduce a patient’s risk of dying from a heart attack by almost 30% in many cases, as long as it’s taken early enough! But do not give your patient aspirin if they are allergic.

The Role of Nitroglycerin

If a patient has been prescribed nitroglycerin, you can assist them with taking it as directed. It can help reduce chest pain and improve the blood supply to the patient’s heart.

CPR and AEDs

If your patient is unconscious when you arrive or becomes unconscious in your care from a suspected heart attack, begin cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) until the AED is ready. Clear the area once the AED is ready and follow the device’s instructions.

Other Prehospital Techniques and Interventions

Your goal is to get your patient as stable as possible to receive care at the nearest hospital. Depending on your assessment results, you may need to utilize non-invasive ventilation techniques, perform endotracheal intubation, or use supraglottic airways.

As you can see, responding to emergencies can become overwhelming, and it’s your job to keep cool and maintain control of the situation as best you can. When you’re juggling these responsibilities, it can be difficult to remember all of the medical jargon. That’s why we’re here to help. Ready to feel confident on the job? Sign up for our Video Vault to get access to our EMS Medications Mastery Course today!

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