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Avatar universal

Left bicep pain as a symptom of heart attack?

My 45yr old husband had a heart attack last July (2007).  He had a 99% blocked (minor) artery and required two stents.  He is on Lipitor, Plavax, and asprin.  He eats a very low fat diet and exercises every day.  The last 3 days he has complained of pain in his left bicep.  Last night it was so bad that he could not sleep.  He tells me that it feels like he worked out too hard (he does cardio and weights) but that is the same thing he told me last year 3 weeks prior to his heart attack.  Is it possible that he is having complications with his stents, maybe having another heart attack or is it possible that he really only has pain because of working out?  
14 Responses
Avatar universal
I'm 42 and had an MI in Jan. I do NOT want to alarm you, but I think it's best to err on the side of caution.

My pre heart attack pain manifested as pain in my triceps as though I had worked out the day before.

I did not have chest pains, or breathlessness or pain in the jaw (until very late) We all want to rationalize the pain away, especially after having been through it once before. But rather than speculate, were I in his shoes I would go to the ER since it's the weekend.

The stress from wondering and speculating is magnitudes worse than going to the hospital and finding out it was nothing and all is ok. I've been back to the ER a couple of times in the last 12 weeks and the cardio once - they did the EKG and were very dismissive of me. But I don't give a rats patootie what they think anymore.

My heart attack symptoms were so atypical that they misdiagnosed me with a pinched nerve a month before I had the big one. Let them do whatever tests they need to to make certain it's not the heart.

My cardio has advised me that when I travel and I'm on my own, to actually go into the ER saying "I'm having a heart attack" rather than just saying I've got some pain in the arm or left side....he said that will get their attention and they'll start with the heart patients first.

Hope this helps, and could some of you on this forum who have a lot more wisdom counsel Kayzer7 please.

Best wishes,
This is what keeps too many of us at home, especially if female:  "...they did the EKG and were very dismissive of me."
Avatar universal
Thank you for your comments.  My husband did not (a year ago or now) have breathlessness, or pain in the jaw and just very mild chest pain but more located in his upper shoulder and bicep.  He totally wants to explain away the pain.  "it's no big deal", "I must have bumped into something", "perhaps I just worked out too hard".  
I heard that last summer and I'm hearing it again.  BUT, he is stubborn and will refuse to go to the ER until he has major pain.  
He does have a regularly scheduled appt. with his cardiologist on Wed. the 16th.  They will do a stress test then.  He's hoping everything can "wait" until then.  
I pray.
Thanks for your sharing.
Avatar universal
I shall keep your fam in my prayers and trust that all turns out for the best.

The last thing any of us want is another round of nonsense all over again. Perhaps you can call the cardio office on Monday on his behalf and see what they have to say, or call the ER today itself and ask them - especially if you're so worried. They'll probably ask him to come down anyway.

Hang in there, and others with more experience on this forum and w/heart attacks will respond to you soon.

Keep the faith and my prayers are with you.
Avatar universal
I have been having the pain in my left arm (bicep/tricep area) since the end of February.  I also have chest pressure and pain in my lower jaw.  I went to the ER on March 17th with these symptoms and they ran the usual cardiac workups and did a head CT.  I was discharged and told to follow up with my PCP and my cardiologist.  Well since then I have been to my PCP twice and 2 different cardiologist.  I had a stress echo done on Wednesday and I was told everything looked great.  My cholesterol levels are perfect in my cardiologist eyes so I don't know where to really go at this point.  As I type this I have the chest pressure and jaw pain, I have it everyday sometimes 3-4 times a day.  I have been told this is not heart related, but possibly related to my hiatal hernia/GERD.  I am really scared now after reading your posts.  I am only 29 and I don't want to die!! I keep going back to the dr. and they can't find anything wrong with me.  I have had every heart test done except for a cardiac cath, and the insurance won't cover one for me because of previous tests results and my age.  I don't know what to do anymore........
Avatar universal
Since you've had all the right tests (chol., stress...) I would venture a guess that yes, this could be related to GERD/acid reflux.  My younger brother (age 30) had very similar symptoms as you but after my husband's heart attack and therefore, he assumed the worse for himself.  But, lo and behold, no heart condition only acid reflux which seemed so minor compared to the symptoms he was experiencing.  I suggest you go to a Gastro. doc and find out what more you can do to alveivate your pain.
Avatar universal
Thank you very much for your post.  I also assume the worst, which I guess in a way is good, but I need to get over the fact that it is my heart.  The pains all started when I was pregnant and they come and go, they just haven't gone away this time around.  I was prescribed Protonix, but quit taking it because my insurance won't cover it.  I think I will try to get some more samples and talk to my gastro about possible alternatives.  I wish you and your husband lots of luck.  Thanks again!!

Avatar universal

One of my cardio's post heart attack mentioned to me that had they done a 64 slice CT scan of my coronary arteries the blockages would have shown up. He said it is currently the best non-invasive way for a cardio to get an internal view of your coronary arteries for signs of blockages.

I've been to 11 cardios in the last 3 mts - long story...and the cardio's advised me to share with my fam, friends and colleagues to insist on the 64 slice. Ins. co's do not typically like to pay on these tests which is why their hands are tied.

Had I known all this earlier, believe me I would have insisted they do the test even if I had to pay the $3k. I'd rather shell out $3K for peace of mind than risk the situation I have landed myself in - 3 major heart attacks over the course of 9 hours, all the while thinking it was a pinched nerve (my first 3 cardios and my PCP internist suggested that's what it was)

Again, my opinion is terribly one sided, and I'm not sure I can be objective about this whole issue any longer.

I sincerely hope it is just a gastric prob. Please keep us posted.

Avatar universal
Thank you for your reply.  My PCP has me going for a MRI of my neck because she believes it is a problem with my neck, my cardio does not think that is the problem, she is thinking gastro related.  I wrote before that I have been experiencing this since February, but it has gotten really bad in February.  The problems actually started to occur in April 2006 while I was pregnant.  Like I said before I kind of go through "phases" where things are really bad (i.e. the pains) and then it is almost like it goes into a remission.  I was actually hospitalized for 4 days in July 07 because of this.  They ran all types of tests and couldn't find anything wrong.  

I have not had the 64-slice, it has never even been mentioned to me.  I just had a stress echo done on Wednesday and I didn't have even ONE symptom while I was running or after.  I was told "slight" MVP but other than that it was unremarkable.  Told to follow up with more thyroid bloodwork since my TSH levels were low but that all other bloodwork was great.  I am really at a loss right now, and I thank you again for your reply.  I guess I will schedule my MRI on Monday so that I have some leverage if it comes back normal.  I will keep you posted.

Avatar universal
Be certain to ask him about it, but since you are pregnant they may be shying away from the Multislice CCTA (Cardiac CT Angiogram) I learned that there is the potential for serious side effects from the large doses of radiation.

I mention the failure of my original cardio team in an earlier post - "Post Heart Attack Sad+Stressed...don't want to belabor everyone with a rehash! They categorically missed detecting my 100% blockage of the LAD, and blockages of the Left and Right Coronary arteries using the traditional Echo/Stress Test.

Apparently if one has "unstable angina" it will not necessarily show up on the Stress test. They pushed my heart rate up to 190 in 9 minutes and I had no chest pains/angina. So if one has blockages in any of the anterior coronary arteries the test could potentially miss it. The cardios informed me that the test is a good indicator for "traditional" symptoms/blockages, but 15-20% of patients are missed!

I keep recapping that I'm a relative neophyte to this "Brave New World" and I hope some of the others with a lot more wisdom on these issues will chip in their counsel.

On a side note, Medicare will continue to cover the CCTA's at previous levels (they were considering not reimbursing cardio's for the tests), but recent studies showed that the CCTA's do have a higher predictive value than Stress Tests/Nukes and others.

Here's info at the Cleveland Clinic website (it's one of the world renowned leaders in Cardiac Care)

A terrific ancillary website to medhelp.org which has a lot of stuff that goes over the top of my pretty little head is:

Don't freak out. Just be politely perseverant till they have eliminated everything. I now see 2 cardios concurrently. The primary knows I'm using another for 2nd opinions and he's ok w/it and the one I use for 2nd opinion is ok in that role. They are at competing practices.

So after every appointment w/#1, I send the records to #2 to verify. The founding fathers of this country were very wise in instituting checks and balances!

Please keep us posted and best wishes,

how old are you?
Avatar universal
I've never heard of the 64 slice of CT scan.  What exactly does that mean?  My hubby's stress test is scheduled for Wed. but now I'm wondering if that test will be "good enough".  I'm always worried that it won't be.  Do you have more info. regarding the procedure you had done?  Is it invasive? How long does it take?  in hospital? or doc's office?
Avatar universal
In addition to visiting the links above in my earlier post, please visit this site on Angioplasty.org....it explains what a 64 slice is and how it is almost as good as an Angiogram without being an invasive procedure.


Hope this helps. And try not to stress out too much. I'm learning this myself.

Avatar universal
Thanks for the info.  I'll check out the different sites.  And, I do try not to worry.  More than anything, I worry that he isn't being completely honest with me regarding any pain.  Talking with the cardio nurse has helped ease some of my concerns.
Thanks again.
Avatar universal
Hi guys,i woke up today & noticed pain in left arm just above elbow,as the day's gone it's been coming and going,it's kind a sharp but only lasts a second or so but really feel it ,feeling very worried.....I was at er on Friday 4 a rib injury & they did an ecg/ekg & said it was perfectly normal,also my BP & oxygen saturation was fine (98%) and 125/87 ....I came home in pain but at peace then today I hear left arm pain sign of heart problems so i got on the net & came across this site.....you guys seem to know what you're talking about any help/advice would be great many thanks Scott
Avatar universal
I had a 64 slice CT contrast dye angio in 2016.  I already had a stent (2013) which can cause some false positives but they felt because I only had 1 stent in the LAD, I was told some of the 'chatter' that might show up is only because of the stent. In my case that 'chatter' showed up as a potential 50% blockage but everything else was whistle clean and in fact I had had some regression and a 50% blockage is not a huge cause for alarm. Blockages are usually not dealt with until they are more than 70%. Here is my story.....

I see this thread is many years old but will post...perhaps it will help someone. I had a stent in April of 2013, 95% blockage of LAD.  I am female and I too was sent home with a diagnosis of "gerd". I had slight abnormality at the upper end of a stress test immediately following my release from ER (I was running and am fit), no breathlessness, nothing (I am a professional singer) During my first visit to ER, I had slightly raised troponin but was told that could be my normal and they sent me on my merry way.  My symptoms were a severe squeezing in my left arm/upper chest.....I thought that sounded pretty typical but my discharge paper after the stent said I had atypical symptoms!)  When I presented the 2nd time in ER (3 MONTHS LATER) They agreed to do a cath but thought they wouldn't find a thing....well now! Yup, unstable angina didn't really register, excellent heart function, only 47 years old....the docs shook their heads in disbelief, literally when they saw the 95% blockage. I also had normal cholesterol. I am an ex-smoker but I quit many years ago and 47 is young even if you were a smoker. My Dad had similar in 1989; he had 2 blockages in smaller arteries and underwent a double bypass and is now 88 yrs. old. He also had normal cholesterol. He did suffer a mild stroke about 10 years ago which I believe has contributed to his dementia. Neither of us have had a heart attack. We both suffered severe side-effects from the standard cocktail of drugs which included beta-blockers. He suffered severe claustrophobia and I, severe anxiety. Neither of us have any issue with our heart muscle so we went off the beta-blockers, both within about a month of our procedures.

I was searching today because I am having some mild aching in my left bicep but it's very different from the squeezing of 5 years ago. This aching doesn't seem 'normal' to me although it is very mild. It comes and goes, staying for a minute or two at a time. I have been back to ER a few times with a tachycardia issue (tachycardia has only happened since I had the stent and what led to the CT angio) but this is the first time I've had any sort of arm pain in the 5 years.  I have also suffered random palpitations, have been hooked up to a holter monitor 3 times and they can't find anything. One time when I was in ER I was feeling the palpitations while hooked up to the EKG and it didn't show anything. That was reassuring but I still don't know what causes the sensations.

Lastly, I live in Canada and I feel very fortunate to not have to worry about insurance nor pay for procedures. It is true there are long wait-lists for chronic conditions but if you have a life-threatening condition, our system is there for you asap. I continue to follow up with a mirad of doctors and never have to worry about a co-pay or any out of pocket expenses.  In fact, there is no "admin" at all in the Canadian system; when you go to any doctor, you show your provincial health plan card and that's it....there is no paperwork other than going to a specialist, for the first time, who will want a medical history.  Having said that, I would shell out bucks for the 64 slice CT angio.

I hope everyone is doing well after all these years.
My heart is with you...Kim
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