Myocardial Bridge: Symptoms & Treatment

Instructor: Adrianne Baron

Adrianne has taught high school and college biology and has a master's degree in cancer biology.

We are going to discuss a condition that can occur in the heart known as a myocardial bridge. The symptoms and treatments for this condition will be explained in this lesson.

Myocardial Bridge

We drive on bridges all the time as we go from one place to another. Bridges go over bodies of water, land, and other roads. These are bridges that we build and hope to see. Other bridges are not so desirable, such as myocardial bridges.

Diagram showing normal structure of the heart

A myocardial bridge is when a small portion of the heart muscle passes over one of the blood vessels that supplies blood to the heart. The heart muscle is called the myocardium, which is the portion that forms the bridge.

Symptoms

If you are like most people, then you probably think that anything abnormal with the heart cannot be good. Myocardial bridges are not good, but they are usually not all that troublesome either. The vast majority of people that develop myocardial bridges do not even know they have them. This is because they are usually asymptomatic, meaning they do not cause any symptoms.

There are other instances when a myocardial bridge may in fact cause symptoms to occur. When they do, people most often think they are having a heart attack since the symptoms are so similar. They will experience chest pain formally referred to as angina.

This is often accompanied with shortness of breath and pain in the left arm. Some people that have had myocardial bridges also say they felt like their chest was tight or that there was pressure on their chest. Another common symptom of a myocardial bridge is jaw pain, particularly on the left side of the jaw. A myocardial bridge may also cause someone to feel fatigue even when they have slept and are not doing much.

Treatments

Doctors will not normally treat a myocardial bridge unless it is causing symptoms. This is because all-in-all, myocardial bridges are rather harmless. If it isn't harming or bothering you, then there is no reason to even bother treating it.

Luckily, our doctors know how to treat a myocardial bridge when it does become bothersome. The symptoms of a myocardial bridge are similar to that of a heart attack because the bridge may begin to press on the blood vessel that supplies blood to the heart when the heart contracts causing it to temporarily not have oxygenated blood. This temporarily mimics what happens with a heart attack, and so it is treated using a couple of the same treatments that are used to treat a heart attack.

The doctor is going to first attempt to treat the myocardial bridge by giving medications. One type of medication that may be given are beta blockers. These are medications that work by slowing or blocking some of the nerve impulses that travel through your heart and cause it to contract. Slowing the heart down puts it in a state where it does not require as much oxygenated blood. This helps with a myocardial bridge because the reduced supply of oxygenated blood will be enough to meet the demands of the lower functioning heart.

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