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Br J Pain. 2013 Feb;7(1):23-30. doi: 10.1177/2049463712474648.

Myocardial ischaemia and cardiac pain - a mysterious relationship.

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Royal Liverpool & Broadgreen University Hospitals, Liverpool, UK.
Institute of Cardiovascular Medicine and Science, Liverpool Heart and Chest Hospital, UK.


Pain related to cardiac disease has been recognised for centuries. However, the precise mechanisms of angina pectoris remain bafflingly obscure. Conventional cardiological angina management concentrates on methods to improve oxygen delivery to cardiac myocytes as our understanding of cardiac muscle cells' response to hypoxia increases. In common with other chronic visceral pain syndromes, little is understood about how pain signals are generated and propagated by visceral nerves. Improved imaging and other physiological assessments have demonstrated important central nervous system (CNS) responses to myocardial ischaemia, including activation of CNS areas known to be 'key players' in chronic pain syndromes. Patients with stable angina usually have an excellent prognosis, especially if left ventricular function is preserved. Educating patients about their condition, teaching simple techniques known to help chronic pain patients and introducing targeted pain treatments specific to angina can be extremely helpful adjuncts to conventional cardiological treatments and will often bring about significant improvements in quality of life.


Chest pain; chronic pain; intractable pain; pain; visceral pain

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