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Severe pain in back. Why do I have trouble breathing? Why is there stabbing pain from sternum? Gallbladder issue?

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Gastroenterologist, Surgical
Practicing since : 1989
Answered : 883 Questions
I am a female who turned 50. About a month ago, I started having severe pain in my right side. The pain radiated to the right lower back. I went to my Dr., thinking it was my gallbladder. All tests came back negative.

Last week the SAME pain MOVED from the right side to the center of my chest (sternum) and has established itself there. NOW, I especially cannot take XXXXXXX BREATHS without excruciating pain. I have a lot of burping and gas, and an irritation in my throat like that of allergies. This is accompanied by occasional coughing. I have ABSOLUTELY NO OTHER symptoms or problems. I am not a smoker or a drinker. NOBODY seems to know what this pain is, or what is causing it. A recent sonogram indicated nothing. I have subsequently lined up several tests that will be made available to me in the next two (2) weeks or so, including CT Scan, MRI, Bone Density, Endoscopy, and a Breast Examination.

This morning, I was awakened by an inability to breathe. When I tried to sit up, I had this LONG NEEDLE like STABBING PAIN going straight from the sternum to the very center, between my lungs. Each heartbeat seems like a punch when trying to breathe deeply. I took 2 (two) aspirins for pain, which helped for awhile. Now I'm back with EXACTLY the same level of pain.

A few months ago, I experienced an episode at approximately 11 p.m. involving labored breathing and elevated blood pressure. I could not lower my left arm because of a paralyzing pain. I had the sensation of something traveling down my left lung. It seemed like a blood clot attempting to pass downward. My husband summoned EMS paramedics. They did an EKG and checked vital signs upon arrival. There were no abnormalities of any kind revealed by their tests. Subsequent medical consultation and examination detected nothing.
Posted Thu, 21 Jun 2012 in Abdominal Pain
Answered by Dr. Ketan Vagholkar 5 hours later

Thanks for posting a detailed account of your problem.

I can understand your concern and the mental stress that you are undergoing due to this problem. I shall try to provide you with useful information pertaining to your problem.

1. What could be causing this pain?
Since the ultrasound of abdomen is normal, there isn't a problem in the right upper abdomen. Reviewing your past history, there are 2 possibilities which I can think of,
a. Reflux disease - This is a chronic disease associated with lifestyle. If present, this will be picked up by endoscopy.
b. Cardiovascular insufficiency - both contrast enhanced Computed tomography of the brain as well as a thallium scan or 2D echo of the heart will help us rule any cardiovascular insufficiency.

2. What can be done now?
It is essential that we understand your problem clearly. The investigations which are planned by your doctors will surely help in identifying the true nature of the problem. A specific treatment can then be planned based on the reports of those tests.

In the meanwhile, I suggest you to continue Nexium. Taking it “half an hour” before food can give improved results than taking it after food. In addition, avoid analgesics as and when possible. Regular food and good sleep can be beneficial.

I hope this answers your doubt. Let me know if you need more help.

With regards
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