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Chest Pain Assessment

Patients often find it hard to know what to do when they feel pain or discomfort in their chest. Because chest pain due to a myocardial infarction (i.e. heart attack), pulmonary embolus (i.e. blood clot in the lungs), aortic dissection, or tension pneumothorax may result in sudden death, any patient with recent onset chest pain, especially when symptoms are ongoing, who may be potentially unstable with symptoms like dizziness, palpitations, nausea or vomiting, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, should receive evaluation in an Emergency Department.

The hospital Emergency Room is best equipped for the rapid triage, assessment, and care of chest pain patients. Through the Emergency Room, chest pain can be more thoroughly evaluated as needed with standard and special blood tests, imaging studies, heart monitoring, and observation to accurately rule out its more serious, potentially life threatening causes. After life threatening conditions have been ruled out, evaluation of other causes of chest pain through your provider’s office is warranted.

The list of medical problems that can present as chest pain is extensive, ranging from life-threatening heart disease to benign musculoskeletal causes. Chest wall causes of pain are among the most common seen by primary care providers, sometimes accounting for up to 36 percent of episodes. Cardiac causes of chest pain may be related to coronary artery disease, aortic dissection, valvular heart disease, or inflammation. Pulmonary causes of chest pain may be related to problems at lung vessels, lung tissue, or pleural tissue. Gastrointestinal problems in organs like the esophagus and stomach can cause chest pain as well. Chest pain may be a presenting symptom of panic disorder, anxiety, depression, or hypochondriasis.

Given the wide variability of possible causes, any patient with recent onset chest pain, especially when symptoms are ongoing, who may be potentially unstable with symptoms like dizziness, palpitations, nausea or vomiting, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, should receive evaluation in an Emergency Department to accurately rule out more serious, potentially life threatening diagnoses.

UT Student Health Center patients are encouraged to go to:

UT Medical Center Emergency Room
1924 Alcoa Highway
Knoxville,TN 37920
(865)305-9000

or the nearest Emergency Room for evaluation and care.

Emergency transport may be obtained by dialing 911.

Student Health Center
Division of Student Life

1800 Volunteer Blvd.
Knoxville, TN 37996-3102
Phone: 865-974-3135

The flagship campus of the University of Tennessee System and partner in the Tennessee Transfer Pathway.

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