Ask the Cardiologist: How effective is aspirin for chest pain?

Dr. Maciej Malinski is on the medical staff at Sherman Hospital. He has been kind enough to answer some frequently asked questions related to maintaining a healthy heart in his Ask the Cardiologist series. To see all posts Dr. Malinski has written, just type “Ask the Cardiologist” into the search bar on the right.

Q: How effective is aspirin for chest pain compared to morphine and nitroglycerin?

I assume you’re asking about chest pain related to narrowing in coronary artery disease (CAD). Aspirin is an analgesic (more commonly known as a painkiller) and as such can help in case of various body aches.

In the case of acute heart attack, aspirin does not relieve pain fast enough, but the more important and life-saving role of aspirin in this situation is the prevention of blood clot buildup.

In people with chronic angina (chest pain due to ischemia of the heart muscle), aspirin reduces proinflammatory chemicals contributing to slowing the progression of disease. Also, it makes blood cells responsible for forming blood clots less “sticky”, decreasing the chance of an acute heart attack.

Morphine can reduce the pain very quickly, and it is believed that by doing it and at the same time inducing mild sedation, it relaxes the patient, which in turn leads to less stress for the heart in the case of acute heart attack. It also lowers blood pressure, decreasing overall workload of the heart in this stressful situation.

Nitroglycerin helps patients deal with the pain that comes with an acute heart attack because it dilates the arteries, so more oxygen can get to heart muscle, thus relieving the pain. Unfortunately, nitroglycerine is metabolized in the body and its effects are transients, so if there is no more definite therapy delivered the pain will most likely return.

I hope this answers your question!

Do you have a question for Dr. Malinski? To submit your question, post it in the comments section below, visit the Sherman Health Facebook page, or email with the subject line “Question for Dr. Malinski.”

This post is published by Sherman Health to provide general health information. It is not intended to provide personal medical advice, which should be obtained directly from your physician.

About Sherman Health

Sherman Health has provided medical care to Northern IL since 1888, and is currently home to a network of over 600 physicians. The Sherman blogs are edited by me, Luke. Questions? Comments? Links? Email address is luke at shermanhealth dot com.
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