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Accid Emerg Nurs. 2002 Jan;10(1):2-9.

Is the radiation of chest pain a useful indicator of myocardial infarction? A prospective study of 541 patients.

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  • 1School of Acute and Critical Care Nursing, Faculty of Health and Social Care, University of the West of England, Bristol, BS16 1DD, UK.


In recent years it has been claimed that in those presenting with chest pain, the extent of pain radiation may be predictive of MI and that women's and men's pattern of pain radiation differs. This prospective study therefore investigated whether there were differences in pain radiation between those with and without MI and according to gender. Patients (n = 541) presenting to a CCU with an episode of chest pain were asked to indicate on a body map the region of pain radiation they experienced at the time of symptom onset. As expected, radiation to the left and/or to right shoulder/arm was significantly higher in the MI group. Women with MI experienced more chest pain radiating to the right arm/shoulder (P = 0.0005), upper right region (P = 0.0006) and arm/shoulder than those without MI. Additionally, women with MI also described more pain radiation in the front neck (P = 0.015) area, and the right shoulder/arm (P = 0.02) than their male counterparts. A third of these women also experienced more pain radiating to the back (P = 0.005). The premise of greater chest pain distribution amongst those with an MI could not be confirmed. Nevertheless, the study identified significant differences amongst women with MI, the discussion analyses the implications for practice.

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