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Emerg Med J. 2007 Aug;24(8):603-4.

Gastric perforation secondary to incarcerated hiatus hernia: an important differential in the diagnosis of central crushing chest pain.

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  • 1Department of Anaesthetics, Belfast City Hospital, Lisburn Road, Belfast, BT9 7AB, UK.


Gastric perforation in association with incarceration of a hiatus hernia rarely features on a list of differential diagnoses of acute chest pain. A patient presented to the emergency department with acute chest pain characteristic of myocardial ischaemia. Several risk factors for ischaemic heart disease (IHD) were present. Investigations revealed normal cardiac enzymes and normal electrocardiography both initially and at 90 mins. A chest radiograph demonstrated the presence of a hiatus hernia. The patient was diagnosed with, and treated for, unstable angina. A troponin T test at 12 h post-admission was normal. The patient's clinical condition continued to deteriorate. The source of her pain was found to be gastric perforations in association with an incarcerated hiatus hernia. Her postoperative course was complicated by pulmonary and intra-abdominal sepsis necessitating admission to the intensive care unit where she remained for 23 days. This case highlights the challenge that non-cardiac chest pain presents to the acute care physician. Patients who present with risk factors for and symptoms consistent with a diagnosis of IHD may have non-cardiogenic pathology which can be life-threatening.

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