Mon, Jul 22, 2019 - Page 2 News List

Doctor warns abdominal pain can be misdiagnosed

By Lee I-chia  /  Staff reporter

Upper abdominal pain might not only be a symptom of gastrointestinal disorders, but also of heart disease, Cathay General Hospital cardiologist Chen Chieh-yu (陳玠宇) said.

Chen gave an example of a man in his 60s, also surnamed Chen (陳), who would often eat meals at different times during the day due to the nature of his work, and was fond of eating at all-you-can-eat buffets.

He was also obese and had high cholesterol.

For about three years, the man experienced frequent upper abdominal pain, lower chest pain, heartburn and acid reflux, so he sought treatment at a hospital’s gastroenterology department and was diagnosed with gastroesophageal reflux disease, the cardiologist said.

Although the heartburn and acid reflux disappeared after treatment, the patient sometimes still felt upper abdominal and lower chest pain, especially when he was walking, so the doctor referred him to Cathay General Hospital’s Cardiovascular Center for further examination.

The cardiologist said the man’s three main coronary arteries were all obstructed and that he could have died from acute myocardial infarction, commonly known as a heart attack, if he had not been treated in time.

The man was diagnosed with serious coronary artery disease, with his left anterior descending artery obstructed by 70 to 80 percent, his left circumflex artery obstructed by 50 to 60 percent and his right coronary artery fully obstructed, the cardiologist said.

Generally, about 80 percent of the people with coronary artery disease experience chest tightness, chest pain or shortness of breath, but about 16 percent have atypical symptoms, including upper abdominal pain, front lower neck pain or lower gum pain, Chen Chieh-yu said.

People with gastrointestinal disorders usually have abdominal pain before or after meals, along with heartburn and acid reflux, while people with heart disease might experience it when walking, climbing stairs or exercising, and the pain is mostly in the upper abdomen and lower chest area, he said.

People who are obese; have been diagnosed with hyperlipidemia, hypertension or diabetes; have a family history of coronary heart disease; or smoke should look out for symptoms of possible heart disease, he said.

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