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Dr.Richard Asher,  a British physician from Sussex addressed a group of young passing out medical students way back in 1948 in London. The lecture was titled seven sins of medicine! We should thank the Lancet for having published this brief speech the subsequent year in its journal making it immortal medical teaching!

Seven sins of medicine lancet 1949

Seven sins of medicine

Though he was listing these sins among medical students, it is very relevant to every health professional.

1. Obscurity
Asher endorses the use of clear communication and plain language whether writing or speaking. Obscurity may be used to cloak one’s own ignorance, or due to an inability to communicate with those outside of the medical profession. “If you don’t know, don’t admit it. Instead, try to confuse your listeners.” is not uncommon. Regardless of the intention, whether to misdirect from incompetence or to foster a feeling of superiority, the patient and those surrounding them are often left confused and uncertainiy.
2. Cruelty
 This sin is perhaps one of the most commonly committed by doctors and medical students. Whether it be the physical thoughtlessness of a half-dozen students palpating a painful tumor mass, or loudly taking (or presenting) a patient’s history in a crowded room, one of the first things that is unlearnt by a medical professional is to treat the patient as they themselves would like to be treated.
3. Bad Manners
 Often overlooked, rudeness or poor taste in humour is condoned within the hospital setting. At the end of the day, many doctors and students are simply rude to patients that do not suit them. Whether it is a snapping at an uncooperative patient or making a cruel joke about them after leaving the room, the impact of these “coping mechanisms” (as they are considered to be by many) must be taken into account.
4. Over-Specialisation
 In a growing trend by the medical establishment, over-specialization and under-generalization is a growing problem in the wider medical community. Ignoring aspects of one’s education in favor of more interesting aspects is a behavior that is pathological and outright negligent in a student. Failure to diagnose or to treat a patient because “their signs and differential fall outside of my field, let’s turf them to another service” ought to be a seriously considered Supervisory & Training issue.
5. Love of the Rare
 (aka “If you hear hoof-beats, think horses. Not zebras”) The desire for rare and interesting diseases causes many medical students and young doctors to seek the bizarre rather than seeing a mundane diagnosis.
6. Common Stupidity
As well as the standard definition for this sin, the specific example of “using empirical procedures rather than tailoring for the patient” or the young doctor “flying on autopilot” must be mentioned. Ordering another test that is redundant, and for which the results may already be interpreted from the history, before starting treatment is such a situation. For example: requesting a hemoglobin count before beginning transfusion, despite the fact that the patient appears obviously anaemic.
7. Sloth
 Laziness. Also includes ordering excessive numbers of tests, rather than simply taking the time to take an adequate history

Final message

 It is astonishing, to note  Dr.Asher made this observation in the very early days in the evolution of modern medicine,(No critical care units, no HMOs, No industry nexus with research, & commodification of medicine  )  I wonder what Dr. Asher would have to write if he is alive in 2021.

Wish every medical professional find where they fit in this Asher score. Looking back on my career, I must confess my score would be 3 ( may be 3.5 !) out of 7.  Now, desperately trying to get rid of them. Mind you, the 4th (Overspecailisation)  and 6 th (common stupidity) is inherently built into the system. I think, very tough to avoid them.

Who is a doctor?  Where are they made?

I haven’t clearly understood the true meaning of customary Dr tag, my name carries for more than 3 decades, till I saw this. Wish, this video is played to all young medical students on their graduation day.

             I am realizing with guilt, it requires a Holywood movie buff to remind us the true meaning of the famous WHO – definition of Health, done in the most holistic fashion in the year 1948. 

Health is a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.

So, technically, whoever serves to improve these three components and alleviate human suffering becomes a doctor. 

Happy to share this on July 1st, the official Doctor’s day in India in memory of the Bharat Ratna Dr.B.C.Roy of Bengal. 

Reference

The clip is from the movie Patch Adams, Directed by Tom Shadyac.  A Hollywood celebrity movie maker, Virginian professor of communication turned philanthropist, now retired to a minimalist life. He is also known for his famous documentary I am that talks about the problems faced by the world. Though his works are much appreciated, I  must say, they are underrated. Deserves more than an Oscar for communicating his thoughts on the medical profession perfectly and for social equality.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I think it is an Invalid question. Whether you like it or not , medical science and philosophy are always bonded together and its relationship is eternal. It doesn’t make sense to separate them. I think we have misunderstood the meaning of philosophy. While science is presumed truths, philosophy is trying to believe in unknown truths. Philosophical truths are built-into every decision a medical professional takes.

If the expected natural history of any disease is science, unexpected deviations are philosophy. (RT PCR testing for diagnosing  Corona is science, why 90% of them are not infective and don’t transform disease is philosophy) When something is not seen or quantifiable like human immunity, it is a perfect example of concealed science or manifest philosophy.

Taking about what we think we know is science, Talking about what we really don’t know is philosophy. The term Idiopathic syndrome finds a  proud of the place in every specialty in medicine, Isn’t? 

 What will be your answer when your patient wants an assurance that a stent, you had just implanted will not get occluded in the next 6 months or so.“I don’t know, I cant assure you about that”  will be your most likely answer. (Though, we do it in style, hiding behind  the scientific hyperbole decorated with numbers,  also referred to as statistics) Please realize, this is the expression of medical philosophy in the finest form.

Final message 

My Impression is, philosophical truths should be liberally used in a regular fashion right from the first-year medical school to advanced specialty teaching. This seems essential as science in the current times suffers from too much sanctity. This has spilled over to the doctor population as well, and make them appear invincible. 

If only we realize science often trails behind the philosophical truths at least by a few decades, our patients will not be injured inappropriately and prematurely. Mixing science with philosophy in the right composition ( a perfect academic cocktail ) will bring out the best from the noble profession.   

Postamble

Can anyone guess, why scientists are given a doctorate in Philosophy degree  (PhD ) ?

A young man aged around 40 years, had a STEMI was promptly thrombolysed in a small hospital located about 40 KM away in the suburbs of my city Chennai. They did an awesome job of saving the patient life and salvaging the myocardium.

Now begins the story . . . one of the non-medical person who is the owner of the hospital has an unfortunate working  business relationship with a frighteningly big nearby hospital  which had signed a memorandum of irresponsible understanding . It demanded any  patient who arrives in the small hospital with MI should be transferred at earliest opportunity to them.

So, an ambulance was arranged  and the patient (with a fairly well reperfused heart ) was shifted  in an emergency fashion . It reached desired destination after nicely chugging along the choked chaotic Chennai evening traffic for 45 minutes.

The guy was taken directly to cath lab through the side doors to perform a second salvage  procedure on a successfully opened IRA. Young cardiology consultants  in designer cath suite welcomed the smiling ACS patient to their posh new lab .Did few rapid radial shots, mumbled among themselves for few minutes,  decided to stent  a minimal LAD lesion for a patient who was in  zero distress with well-preserved LV function.

*The relatives of the patients were curious when they were asked sign a fresh set of consent which elaborately  mentioned about possible life risk during the procedure.

The patient’s wife  was clearly  amused and she pointed out to the superior cardiologists about  the earlier briefing by the Inferior freelance cardiologist who treated him in the previous hospital. She recalled , “I was told in confident terms  that  Initial thrombolysis  has been spectacularly  successful and bulk of the treatment is over and risk of complication has dramatically reduced”.

Then why is this distressing risk taking story again ,  she asked ?

The doctors hurriedly explained ,”this procedure is different. We are sorry to say we have no other option but to add  further risk to you” ! but , its all for your good !

Why should I ?  If the initial lysis is very successful  why do you want to meddle with it again ?

No Madam , you are ill-informed , you can’t talk like that .This is what modern  science  is all about. Leave the professional decision to us. We need to check immediately  whether the lysis is really successful .We can’t rely on the ECG.Further, true success lies in stenting the lesion as we fear the ill-fated site may close again.We are  taught to practice protocols based on standard scientific guidelines. This hospital has highest rating in-terms of quality care. That’s why we got updated ISO 2000  NABH accreditation

The women who is a soft ware engineer was smartly and  scientifically silenced in 5 minutes flat !

Post-amble :

What happened  to the patient then ? (When you fear something it happens is in’t the  Murphy’s law ?)

The apparently asymptotic and comfortable patient had uneventful PCI. A  long drug eluting  stent  was  implanted in recanalized  lesion in LAD with around 30 % narrowing that ended with an innocuous looking diagonal pinch. The procedure was uneventful , however next day he developed some fresh ECG changes and chest pain . The worried team took him for another angio found  stent was patent But , ultimately after a stressful 3 days of stay , some thing went wrong he ended up with new LV dysfunction.He got discharged fine with a caution  that , his stent needs to intensively monitored for the next 1 year since technically he had recurrent ACS !

Lessons we don’t learn from such cases.

When two procedures are done to accomplish the same aim (Reperfusion) , but with  differing success rates, expertise, time ,and unpredictable hazards , the benefits from them may not add together. There is clear knowledge deficit here. Scientific data can never provide fair answers to  these questions  as all real life cofounders can never be recreated in study population.

While we expect 1+1 to become  two in pharmaco-Invasvie strategy  ,one should realise it may end up with  either zero or even  – 2 .

1 -1 = 0

-1 + (-1)=  -2 ?

Learning cardiology from lay persons 

The patient’s shrewd wife threw this question ,

After two modes of re-perfusion done sequentially in my  husband’s  heart ,  at a total cost of Rs4.5Lakhs Why he  is  still left with significant LV dysfunction (Which was  around 40% EF.)

The query raised by the lady appeared much more crucial and logical than the ones discussed in many top-notch live interventional workshops we attend every few months!

As usual , I started mulling over the issue. There is something wrong with the way , we  understand  the pharmaco invasive approach-PIA .You go with it only if  initial pharmacological  approach has failed.

Of Course ,there is one more modality possible ie Pharmaco -Angio strategy where in, you look at the coronary anatomy and take a call ! This sounds good , the only issue is taking a right call ! My experience suggests wrong calls are the rule and  exceptions are rare. Then a whole new issue erupts about all those non IRA lesions

Final message

So,  til we have gain complete self-control over our evolved ignorance and evolving knowledge , it is better to follow this proposed  funny new ACS algorithm called “Pharmaco -non invasive” approach (PNIA)  in asymptomatic ACS patients  who have had apparently successful lysis.

*Please note, Incidentally  PNIA actually  refers to simple good old traditional stand alone thrombolysis.

Counter point

No one can deny Interventional cardiology carries a risk of untoward effects.Don’t blow this out of proportion. Do you know, how many lives have been saved by routine Pharmaco -Invasive approach ?

I am not sure , my experience may be limited.Let me ask the readers. Is routine PIA is warranted in all asymptomatic , successfully lysed STEMIs ?

100% occlusion of a coronary artery result in STEMI.This includes both thrombus and mechanical component .We are very much blinded till we touch , feel and see the lesion with a wire or IVUS to quantify the mechanical component’s  contribution in the genesis of  STEMI.It is generally believed (True as well ) thrombus is the chief culprit .It can even be 100 % thrombotic STEMI with  just a residual endothelial  erosion and hence
zero mechanical component .However , the point of contention that non flow limiting lesion is more likely to cause a thrombotic STEMI than a flow liming
lesion  seems to be biased and misunderstood scientific fact .

What happens once 100 % occlusion take place ?

Sudden occlusion , is expected to evoke a strong fire fighting response within the coronary artery.The immediate reaction is the activation of  tissue plasminogen system. In this aftermath  few succumb . ( Re-perfusion arrhythmia  generated as VF ) .The TPA system activates and tries to lyse the clot.The volume , morphology, attachment, content of thrombus ,  and the elasticity of fibrin mesh , location of  platelet core would determine the life and dissolvablity of thrombus. Even a trickle flow can keep the distal vessel patent .(Please note a timely TIMI 2 flow can be a greater achievement than a delayed TIMI 3  flow !)

thrombus propgation
What happens to the natural history of thrombus in STEMI ?
Thrombus formed over the culprit lesion can follow any of the following course

  •  Can remain static
  •  Get lysed by natural or pharmacological means
  •  Progress distally (By fragmentation or by moving en-mass )
  •  Grow proximal and and involve more serious proximal side branch obstruction
  • Organise and become a CTO

Factors determining thrombus migration

The interaction between the hemodynamic  forces that push a thrombus distally and hemo-rheological factors that promote fresh proximal thrombus formation are poorly understood. The altered intra-coronary milieu with a fissured plaque covered by  platelet vs RBC / fibrin core,  totally of obstruction,  reperfusing forces , re-exposure of raw areas and  the distal vessel integrity all matters.

While, logic would tell us,  thrombus more often migrates  distally  assisted by the direction of blood flow, an  opposite concept also seeks attention , ie since the blood flow is sluggish  in the proximal (to obstruction site )more thrombus forms in segments proximal to obstruction.

(In fact, its presumed  in any acute massive proximal LAD STEMI , it takes hardly few minutes for the thrombus to  queue up proximaly and  clog the bifurcation and spill over to LCX or even reach left main and result in instant mechanical death.)

What is the significance of length and longitudinal resistance of the thrombotic segment in STEMI ?

If thrombus is the culprit let us get rid of it , this concept looks nice on paper , but still  we don’t  know why thrombus aspiration in STEMI is not consistently useful. We also know little about  the length of the thrombotic  segment .When a guide wire is passed over a STEMI ATO it may cross smoothly like  “cutting a slice of  butter” in some , while in few we struggle and  end up with severe no-reflow inspite of great efforts .Why ?

What is the Impact of distal collateral flow in flushing fresh thrombus ?

The efficacy of collateral flow in salvaging myocardium is underestimated. Distal vessel flow if perfused partially by acute collaterals the thrombus load is not only less it’s soft and fail to get organised early that would help cross the lesion easily.

medical education critics cardiology evdnce based medicine growth ethics

Mohandas Karam Chand Gandhi ,  father of my country , India , made these observations in year 1925  about the  fundamental constituents of  violence in society . These words of monumental wisdom came when he was  addressing young Indians in a country- side rally .

mahatma gandhi quotes medical science humanity

Note, his finger points to , what  exactly is relevant to our profession ! He emphasized this  nearly  100 years ago, when medical science was at its infancy .One can only guess what would be Mahatma’s comment about our profession in it’s  current form !

Should we include moral, behavioral and ethical classes  right from the first year of medical  school along with Anatomy , physiology and bio chemistry.Medical council of India obviously need to burn more mid night oil , I wish it happens in my life time. !

Here is a  video recipe  !

Please click here to  see more videos from my you tube site

Prosthetic valve implantation has revolutionized the management of  valvular heart disease . The original concept valve  was a ball in a cage valve  , still considered as a  fascinating discovery.  It was conceived by the young Dr Starr and made by Engineer Edwards  .This was followed   by long hours of arguments,  debates and  experiments that ran into many months . The  silent corridors of  Oregon hospital Portland USA remain the only witness  to their hard work and motivation.  At last,  it happened , the first human valve was implanted in the year 1960. Since then . . . for nearly  50 years these valves  have done a seminal  job for the mankind.

With the advent of  disc valve and bi-leaflet valve in the  later decades of 20th century , we had to say a reluctant good-bye to this valve.

There is a  lingering question among many of the current generation cardiologists and surgeons why this valve became extinct ?

Starr and Edwards with their child !

We in India , are witnessing these old warrior inside the heart functioning for more than 30 years.From my institute of Madras medical college  which probably has inserted more Starr Edwards valve than any other  during the 1970s and 80s by Prof . Sadasivan , Solomon victor , and Vasudevan and others .

It is still a mystery why this valve lost its popularity and ultimately died a premature death.The modern hemodynamic  men  working from a theoretical labs thought  this valve was  hemodynamically  inferior. These Inferior valves worked  like a  power horse  inside the hearts  the poor Indian laborers  for over 30 years.

A Starr Edwards valve rocking inside the heart in mitral position

The cage which gives  a radial support* mimic  sub valvular apparatus, which none of the other valves can provide.

* Mitral  apparatus has 5 major  components. Annulus, leaflets, chordae, pap muscle, LV free wall.None of the artificial valves has all these components.  Though , we would love to have all of them technically it is simply not possible.  The metal cage of Starr Edwards  valve partially satisfies this  , as  it acts as a virtual sub valvular apparatus.Even though the cage has no contact with LV free wall, the mechano hydrolic  transduction of  LV forces to the annulus  is possible .

Further , the good hemodyanmics of this valve indicate , the cage ensures co axial blood  flow  across the mitral inflow throughout diastole. .Unlike the bi-leaflet valve ,  where the direction of  blood flow is determined by the quantum of leaflet excursion  in every beat . In bileaflet valves  each leaflet has independent determinants of valve  motion . In Starr Edwards valve the ball is the leaflet . In contrast to bi-leaflet valve , the contact area  of the  ball and the blood in Starr Edwards  is a smooth affair  and  ball makes sure  the LV forces are equally transmitted to it’s surface .

The superiority of bi-leaflet valves and disc valves  (Over ball and cage ) were  never proven convincingly in a randomized fashion . The other factor which pulled down this valve’s popularity was the supposedly high profile nature of this valve. LVOT tend to get narrowed in few undersized hearts.  This  can not be an  excuse , as no consistent  efforts were made to miniaturize this valve which is  distinctly possible.

Sudden deaths from  Starr Edwards valve  .

  • Almost unheard in our population.
  • The major reason  for the long durability of this valve is due to the  lack of  any metallic moving points .
  • Absence of hinge  in this  valve  confers  a huge mechanical  advantage with  no stress points.
  • A globe / or a ball  has  the universal hemodynamic advantage. This shape makes it difficult for thrombotic focus to stick and grow.

Final message

Science is considered as sacred as our religion Patients believe in us. We believe in science. A  good  durable valve  was  dumped from this world  for no good reason. If commerce is the  the main issue ( as many still believe it to be ! )  history will never  forgive those people who were  behind the murder of this innocent device.

Cardiologists and Cardio thoracic surgeons are equally culpable  for the pre- mature exit of this valve from human domain.  Why didn’t they protest ?  We  can get some solace  ,  if  only we can impress upon  the current valve manufacturers  to  give a fresh lease of life to this valve .

http://www.heartlungcirc.org/article/S1443-9506%2810%2900076-4/abstract

This was written originally in 2009 early days of this blog. Now, re-posting it in 2021  , wonder any one has new data on this! 

We know diabetes, smoking, hyperlidemia, hypertension are major risk factors for progressive vascular disease. They damage the vascular endothelium either directly or indirectly , by aggravating the atheroscelortic process .  Diabetes apart from affecting the medium sized arteries , also affect the microvasculature.  Smoking  has a direct effect on endothelial function .It depletes vascular nitric oxide. High levels of circulating lipids injures the sub endothelial structures and invades the media by entering macrophages .So , all these 4 risk factors either operate independently or interact with each other and result in progressive vascular    disease.

While we  believe , these risk factors do not have any bias in attacking the human vascular  tree, in the real world it is observed they have their own  behavior pattern and  have unique predilection and a deadly alliance .

For example , in  chronic smokers TAO is the commonest manifestation , thrombo angitis is far too less common to occur in the coronary arteries.

Similarly  hypertension  per se  rarely results in an acute coronary syndrome while it is  the  single  important  cause for cerebro vascular  disease. Diabetes especially in women has very strong predilection for CAD , while diabetic per se is a lesser risk for stroke. Hyperlipedimia may be the one which has fairly even risk throughout the vasculature. Similarly there is  a difference in renal and   carotid arterial involvement with reference to  the conventional  risk factors .

SHT diabetes dyslipidemia coroanry risk factor

Why this apparent difference ?

We are unlikely  to get an answer to this question in the near future .  Left to the youngsters  . . . of tomorrow !

* Note of  clarification

The source for the above chart is collected from various studies and also a huge observational data from our hospital. There could be some geographical variation , a given individual may respond differently to these risk factor depending upon his genetic predisposition and susceptibility . So the above data can be applied to general population and not to a individual.

It is often said life is a cycle , time machine rolls without rest and reach  the same  point  again and again . This is  applicable for the  knowledge cycle as well .

We  live a life ,  which is infact a  “fraction of a time”(<100years) when we consider the evolution of life in our planet for over 4 million years.

Man has survived and succumbed to various natural and  self inflicted diseases &  disasters. Currently,  in this  brief phase of life  , CAD is the major epidemic , that confronts  modern  man.It determines the ultimate  life expectancy . The fact that ,  CAD is a new age  disease   and  it was  not  this rampant ,   in our ancestors  is well known .The disease has evolved with man’s pursuit for knowledge and wealth.

A simple example of how the management of CAD over 50 years will  help assess the importance of  “Time in medical therapeutics”

  • 1960s: Life style modification and Medical therapy  is  the standard of care in all stable chronic  CAD The fact is medical and lifestyle management remained the only choice in this period as   other options were not available. (Absence of choice was  a blessing as we subsequently realised  ! read further )
  • The medical  world started looking for options to manage CAD.
  • 1970s : CABG was  a major innovation for limiting angina .
  • 1980s: Plain balloon angioplasty a revolution in the management of CAD.
  • 1990s: Stent scaffolding of    the coronaries  was  a great add on .Stent  was too  dangerous  for routine use  was to be used only in bail out situations
  • Mid 1990s : Stents  reduced restenosis. Stents are  the greatest revolution for CAD management.Avoiding stent in a PCI  is unethical , stents  should be liberally used. Every PCI should be followed by stent.
  • Stents have potential complication so a good luminal dilatation with stent like result (SLR)  was  preferred so that we can avoid stent related complications.
  • 2000s: Simple  bare metal stents are not enough .It also has significant restenosis.
  • 2002: BMS are too notorius for restenosis and may be dangerous to use
  • 2004 : Drug eluting stents are god’s gift to mankind.It eliminates restenosis by 100% .
  • 2006:  Drug eluting stents not only eliminates restenosis it eliminates many patients suddenly by subacute stent thrombosis
  • 2007 : The drug is not  the culprit in DES it is the non bio erodable polymer that causes stent thrombosis. Polymer free DES  or   biodegradable stent , for temporary scaffolding  of the coronary artery  (Poly lactic acid )  are likely to  be the standard of care .
  • All stents  are  potentially dangerous for the simple reason any metal within the coronary artery  has a potential for acute occlusion.In chronic CAD it is not at all necessary to open the occluded coronary arteries , unless  CAD is severely symptomatic in spite of best  medical therapy.
  • 2007: Medical management is superior to PCI  in most of the situations in chronic CAD  .(COURAGE study ) .Avoid PCI whenever possible.
  • 2009 :The fundamental principle of CAD management  remain unaltered. Life style modification,  regular  exercise ,  risk factor reduction, optimal doses of anti anginal drug, statins and aspirin  is the time tested recipe for effective management of CAD .

So the CAD  therapeutic  journey  found  it’s  true  destination  ,  where it started in 1960s.

Final message

Every new option of therapy must be tested  against every past option .There are other reverse cycles  in cardiology  that includes the  role of diuretics  in SHT , beta blockers in CHF etc. It is ironical , we are in the era  of rediscovering common sense with sophisticated research methodology .What our ancestors know centuries ago , is perceived to be great scientific breakthroughs . It takes  a  pan continental , triple  blinded  randomised trial   to prove physical activity is good  for the heart .(INTERHEART , MONICA  studies etc) .

Medical profession is bound to experience hard times in the decades to come ,  unless we  look back in time and “constantly scrutinize”  the so called  scientific breakthroughs and  look  for genuine treasures for a great future !

Common sense protects more humans than modern science and  it comes free of cost  too . . .

NSTEMI constitutes a very heterogeneous population .The cardiac risk can vary between very low to very high . In contrast , STEMI patients carry a high risk for electro mechanical complication including sudden death .They all need immediate treatment either with thrombolysis or PCI to open up the blood vessel and salvage the myocardium.

The above concept , may be true in many situations , but what we fail to recognize is that , STEMI also is a heterogeneous clinico pathological with varying risks and outcome !
Let us see briefly , why this is very important in the management of STEMI

Management of STEMI has undergone great change over the past 50 years and it is the standing example of evidence based coronary care in the modern era ! The mortality , in the early era was around 30-40% . The advent of coronary care units, defibrillators, reduced the mortality to around 10-15% in 1960 /70s . Early use of heparin , aspirin further improved the outcome .The inhospital mortality was greatly reduced to a level of 7-8% in the thrombolytic era. And , then came the interventional approach, namely primary PCI , which is now considered the best form of reperfusion when done early by an experienced team.

Inspite of this wealth of evidence for the superiority of PCI , it is only a fraction of STEMI patients get primary PCI even in some of the well equipped centers ( Could be as low as 15 %)

Why ? this paradox

Primary PCI has struggled to establish itself as a global therapeutic concept for STEMI , even after 20 years of it’s introduction (PAMI trial) . If we attribute , lack of infrastructure , expertise are responsible for this low utility of primary PCI , we are mistaken ! There are so many institutions , at least in developing world , reluctant to do primary PCI for varied reasons.( Affordability , support system , odd hours ,and finally perceived fear of untoward complication !)

Primary PCI may be a great treatment modality , but it comes with a inherent risk related to the procedure.

In fact the early hazard could exceed the potential benefit in many of the low risk STEMI patients !

All STEMI’s are not same , so all does not require same treatment !

Common sense and logic would tell us any medical condition should be risk stratified before applying the management protocol. This will enable us to avoid applying “high risk – high benefit” treatments in low risk patients . It is a great surprise, the cardiology community has extensively researched to risk stratify NSTEMI/UA , it has rarely considered risk stratification of STEMI before starting the treatment.

In this context , it should be emphasized most of the clinical trails on primary PCI do not address the clinical relevance and the differential outcomes in various subsets of STEMI .

Consider the following two cases.

Two young men with STEMI , both present within 3 hours after onset of symptoms

  1. ST elevation in V1 -V6 , 1 , AVL , Low blood pressure , with severe chest pain.
  2. ST elevation in 2 ,3, AVF , hemodynamically stable , with minimal or no discomfort .

In the above example, a small inferior MI by a distal RCA occlusion , and a proximal LAD lesion jeopardising entire anterior wall , both are categorized as STEMI !
Do you want to advocate same treatment for both ? or Will you risk stratify the STEMI and treat individually ? (As we do in NSTEMI !)

Current guidelines , would suggest PCI for both situations. But , logistic , and real world experience would clearly favor thrombolysis for the second patient .
Does that mean, the second patient is getting an inferior modality of treatment ?

Not at all . In fact there is a strong case for PCI being inferior in these patients as the risk of the procedure may far outweigh the benefit especially if it is done on a random basis by not so well experienced cath lab team.
(Note : Streptokinase or TPA does not vary it’s action , whether given by an ambulance drive or a staff nurse or even a cardiologist ! .In contrast , the infrastructure and expertise have the greatest impact on the success and failure of PCI )
Final message

So , it is argued the world cardiology societies(ACC/ESC etc) need to risk stratify STEMI (Like we do in NSTEMI ) into low risk, intermediate risk and high risk categories and advice primary PCI only for high risk patients.

Reference

https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamainternalmedicine/fullarticle/226907

There are about 30000 scientific journals and two million papers every year. Of which 5000 are in medicine (Ref : World university news) 

Now, take a deep breath and answer this query. What do you think is the most important aspect of any scientific or medical research in the current era ?

Final message

With due respect to all researchers, What do you think is the most important aspect of any scientific or medical research?  This query is very much relevant today. All components are equally important is an easy way out. But, that’s not the pathway that will take us to the truth.

Postamble  

Having answered the above question, no way, we can escape from this question –“Which could be the least important component “?

I guess you got it right. In the current scenario, my choice is striking and is sandwiched in the middle of the 7 responses..

Background

A 52-year-old diabetic woman who had undergone recent PCI with a DES developed a febrile illness which was diagnosed as Dengue fever. She has been taking DAPT (Dual antiplatelet) meticulously to maintain her stent. Now, her platelet count has dropped from 1.5 and subsequently to 1 lakh. She is asking now, whether to stop DAPT or not? What is the risk of stent occlusion if she stops? 

The D³ cube syndrome 

Infectious diseases rarely bother a cardiologist (maybe a few IE,  myocarditis, etc). Now, a unique situation is emerging.

*Dengue affects 50-100 million people worldwide every year and one billion are at risk. CAD affects 5 % of the population that amounts to  350 million. As we fight CAD, 2 million coronary stents are implanted annually and at least one-third of them may be on DAPT at any time.

When a  global population is at risk of an infection that targets human platelets and another chunk of the same population in whom platelets are targeted with drugs, what is the Incident risk of overlap between these two groups

 

If you look at these two maps, I think we will not hesitate to call both Dengue and DES a global epidemic affecting the platelet function. The top one depicts the world stent market and the bottom Dengue prone countries

 

Mechanism of thrombocytopenia in dengue

The mechanism of thrombocytopenia in dengue is not clear. Both production at the marrow level and destruction in the periphery is attributed. The antibody-mediated NS (nonstructural protein) is the original antigenic sin  (Click to know more)

Chiao-Hsuan Chao PLoS Pathog. 2019 Apr; 15(4): e1007625. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6497319/

Meanwhile, DAPT paralyzes the platelet by blocking  P2Y12 and COX. It is obvious Dengue virus amplifies the antiplatelet action and increases the bleeding risk at any point during the illness.M

Risky period

Bleeding periods is highly unpredictable. The late recovery phase seems to be critical for hemorrhagic risk.it can go up to  2 to 3 weeks or even a month. (When we don’t have data, only experience becomes data. )

How to manage Antiplatelet agents in post PCI patients with dengue? 

While we have guidelines to stop DAPT during the need for emergency surgeries, the same can not be adopted in Dengue.(Curiously, we can stop DAPT without much fear, after all, dengue antigenic responses take up the role of antiplatelet agent )

Presario from Brasil proposed a practical suggestion.Pesaro AE  (Dengue: cardiac manifestations and implications in antithrombotic treatment. Arq Bras Cardiol. 2007 Aug;89(2):e12-5)

 

Switching to other drugs like eptifibatide or NSAIDs is not an option. 

Post dengue prolonged platelet dysfunction

Though the platelet count returns to normal soon after recovery, long-term platelet defects are also reported. This has implications in resumption of DAPT. Surprisingly, dengue recovery phase thrombocytosis also happens for some unknown reason. Ref: Rebound thrombocytosis causing MI following dengue fever? (Roy A, et al  Indian Heart J. 2007 Jan-Feb;59(1):94)

Final message

When both Dengue &  post PCI epidemics are trying to match in numbers, I guess D³ syndrome (Dengue-DES-DAPT)  would soon become a significant clinical issue. 

Now going back to the title question, Should I stop DAPT or not? 

  • Never easy to answer this question. It is a fine balance between the risk of bleeding vs the risk of stent thrombosis.No amount of algorithm and guideline may clarify it.
  • On any given day, the risk of bleeding in vital spots is more dangerous than thrombus.
  • It is wise to withhold antiplatelet drugs in all febrile illnesses when the platelet count is actively falling below 1 lakh. It may not be quixotic thinking to expect dengue viremia to help the DES with its DAPT equivalent action ! in the intervening period.

Reference

1. Ehelepola NDB, Athurupana Bowatte , Dissanayake  Continuation of Dual Antiplatelet Therapy in a Patient with a Coronary Artery Stent with Dengue Hemorrhagic Fever: A Clinical Conundrum.The American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, 01 Jan 2020, 102(1):17-19  

2.Wishnu Aditya et all Proceedings of Singapore Healthcare 2019

 

Further queries

What about Heparin, Oral anticoagulation (OAC), usage in suspected Dengue?

Go back to basics. Heparin and OAC don’t affect platelet function. It is 100 % safe to continue.

Really? do you think so? No, coagulation physiology is not that simple. Thrombin and antithrombin interactions happen right on the platelet surface. Any antithrombin drugs do have some antiplatelet action as well. Extreme caution is required again. Withhold them unless absolutely indicated.

 

“It was severe double vessel disease &  turned out to be a complex angioplasty in LAD ” 

Why doctor? what happened?

It was a hard lesion, there was plenty of calcium deposits. It was not clearly visible in the angiogram. I had to do IVUS. Curiously, the calcium was clustered in all the three planes of the vessel ( intima the media and adventitia) and they projected into the lumen blocking the path.

Image collage representation purpose

Thank you, doctor,  how did you manage to remove it,?

It was a real struggle. I had to break the calcium shell before deploying the stent. (What we refer to as lesion preparation). I thought Initially I can displace it with high-pressure balloon inflation, I went up to 40 ATM pressure,  finally needed a  rotational ablation with a burr.  ( IVL -Intravascular ultrasound was an option, but may not have helped either because of heavy Intimal load, Angiosculpts, and the cutting balloons (Wolverines) we don’t have)  

Was it a risky procedure?

Yes, of course, see the sharp burr rotating 150 thousand resolution per second hugging the coronary artery without damaging it

By the way, why did he accumulate so much calcium inside doctor? Can it be due to his daily calcium supplement doctor?

Oh – my ? that is important new Info. I think that wasn’t noted in the case file. Tell me more, How long did he take it? 

I think he is taking it for long years. He is rather obsessed with it, consumes lots of calcium in his diet as well. He was also taking vitamin D as it once went down to 15 ng/ml. He needed to strengthen his bone which was porotic in the Dexa scan. Was that a problem now? But his serum calcium was always normal, Then, from where does, this calcium enter my dad’s coronary artery doctor?

I am sorry I  don’t know the answer so far. Now, your dad seems to teach me a lesson. It has to enter from the bloodstream or happen de nova due to degeneration. Calcium along with phosphate is a tightly regulated metabolism.They are closely linked to diet, bone, renal and endocrine glands function. We don’t understand how there can be a no-relationship between blood calcium and coronary arterial calcium. Again plaque calcium and serum calcium may or may not correlate. Understand our knowledge base with which we treat you. 

That’s ok doctor. But do you think,  should he stop calcium & vitamin D tablets from now on?  

Hmm, you keep asking tough questions. I will be a fool if I asked you to continue right!

Please go through this article from Jhon Hopkins and decide ( & MESA study 10 year follow on calcium supplement Ref 2)

Final message

The human body is a wonderful machine. Calcium is a life-sustaining ion present in each of the 75 trillion cells we have. We are programmed to handle all elements except in a fraction when true pathology strikes. Never try to outsmart our natural homeostasis with unnecessary and unsolicited chemicals. Indiscriminate calcium supplements are definitely an unfriendly guest for the coronary artery.

Now, Is it just a coincidence?  the new epidemic of coronary microcalcification detected by CT scans(What is your Agatston’s score buddy ?) is matching with a steady increase in per capita consumption of calcium and vitamin D tablets.

Reference

1.Anderson JJB, Kruszka B, Delaney JAC, et al. Calcium intake from diet and supplements and the risk of coronary artery calcification and its progression among older adults: 10-year follow-up of the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA). J Am Heart Assoc. 2016;5:e003815.

2.Myung SK, Kim HB, Lee YJ, Choi YJ, Oh SW. Calcium Supplements and Risk of Cardiovascular Disease: A Meta-Analysis of Clinical Trials. Nutrients. 2021 Jan 26;13(2):368. doi: 10.3390/nu13020368. PMID: 33530332; PMCID: PMC7910980

For advanced readers

1. Does calcium stabilise a lesion or destabilize a lesion?

It does both .

2. Is CT calcium score correlate with serum calcium?

Yes, it does.Ref : Sanghoon Shin,  European Heart Journal, Volume 33, Issue 22, November 2012, Pages 2873–2881, https://doi.org/10.1093/eurheartj/ehs152

3. What are the various types of coronary calcium? Which is a more tricky lesion? 

 

 

Image courtesy -Abbot A calcific nodule is the tricky one, as it can be tiny still result in invisible stent malapposition inviting future problems.

 

Background

Yesterday, my fellow informed me about a frantic call for cardiac fitness for an emergency cesarian section in 24-year-old woman with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, who is asymptomatic and has a 20mmhg gradient across LVOT.

“Was she in labor”?

“No, she is 36 weeks term.

“Why LSCS? Why emergency”?

“I don’t know sir. Let me discuss and come again”.

 HCM in pregnancy: An approach

Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is a specific genetic disorder of myocyte (myosin and others) within the sarcomere. Though uncommon in pregnancy it raises considerable anxiety to the patient, family, and the obstetrician. 

Hemodynamics

Though we tend to worry more about dynamic LVOT obstruction, it is actually the restrictive physiology of LV myocardium that might cause more concern. Three key variables operate in this entity namely preload, afterload, and contractility that determine the cardiac hemodynamics and possibly the symptoms. We know the classical consequence of pregnancy is a fall in systemic vascular resistance( SVR) ie afterload.

In pregnancy, there is a complex interaction between these three parameters along with heart rate. Fortunately, the net effect ends up favorable for LV performance. This is made possible because a major compensation occurs by a 50% increase in blood volume that effectively counters the deleterious effect of fall in SVR on LVOT gradient. (If mitral regurgitation is significant, the fall in SVR actually may help reduce regurgitant fraction especially if its intrinsic defect )

Maternal outcome 

Is good (if not excellent). Maternal mortality reported in the literature, is gradually coming down (0 to .5% in various series)  However, about 15 % of HCM patients with gross LVH or obstruction, may develop pulmonary congestion in the third trimester. In some patients, VPDs, nonsustained VT, even AF can lead to some tense cardiac consultations but are usually innocuous. I am not sure about the sudden death in pregnancy. I guess it should be negligible, unlike the non-pregnant HCM. 

A mystery learning point

It is surprising  both fetal and maternal outcome is little related to the severity of LVOT gradient (Ref 2) 

Indication  for cesarian 

  • Most mothers can deliver per vaginalis without much hemodynamic challenge. 
  • Vey rarely cardiac indication for LSCS need to happen. (However, in the real world many land up in LSCS , since true indication can be blurred due to  cardio-obstetrical anxiety)
  • Spinal anesthesia to be avoided as hypotension is poorly tolerated 
  • Beta-blockers to be continued during pregnancy labor.(Need not start however if already not taking)

Fetal outcome

Premature birth, stillbirths, low weight are little more common than normal pregnancies. Fetal bradycardia due to beta-blockers has been noted but not troublesome.

What is the role of cardiologist?

The precise answer is “minuscule role”. I can vouch for this from a personal level. ( Consults are meant only for bringing some comfort to the obstetrical team). Active cardiac interventions are rarely required or rather desired. (Of course, patients who have significant symptoms, operated for HC, on OAC for AF, the rare ones with ICD needs expert care)

Final message 

  • Women with  HCM can safely become pregnant and deliver.
  • Best outcome is likely for both mother, and baby if basic precautions are taken.
  • LSCS is rarely required*.
  • Counseling about the condition needs to be gentle and just adequate. Dwelling deep into the pathology, hemodynamics, and statistics in totally asymptotic patients invites trouble to all stakeholders. 

*It is worthwhile to note other forms of severe  LVOT obstruction like valvular, supra valvular stenosis, and Aortic pathologies like Marfan, coarctation aorta are serious entities that deserve prompt cesarian sections.

Reference

1.Thaman R, Varnava A, Hamid MS, Firoozi S, Sachdev B, Condon M, Gimeno JR, Murphy R, Elliott PM, McKenna WJ. Pregnancy related complications in women with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. Heart. 2003 Jul;89(7):752-6. doi: 10.1136/heart.89.7.752. PMID: 12807849; PMCID: PMC1767741.

2.

https://academic.oup.com/eurheartj/article/38/35/2683/3811991

 

3. ESC 2018 pregnancy heart disease guidelines 

Inferior STEMI, and see the first shot in RCA below. The patient was pain-free and hemodynamically stable at the time of the angiogram. (Don’t wonder how this is possible, defying the fundamental rules learned from  animal experiments after acute ligation of the coronary artery)

                

What needs to be done ?
  • Go ahead and do a primary PCI as we do in any other  IRA.
  • Be watchful, just pass on the wire, feel the lesion, and decide thereupon. Consider intracoronary lysis.
  • How about a long stent from proximal to distal RCA?
  • Kissing the lesion with DEB in the tightest segment (Not a funny option )

 

 

What was done? How is the patient?

Nothing was done & nothing happened to the patient as well. Just guidewire was crossed and few minutes of balloon touch-up work. Did the patient improve? Can’t say anything because he was fine even with this total occlusion. 

Lessons to be learned 

  • The art of leaving a lesion left unattended (rather unstented) in IRA without guilt.
  • TIMI zero flow in IRA need not be a death sentence for the distal myocardium, even in STEMI. 
  • Sometimes, a simple guidewire crossing can do the same job as a complex angioplasty in an IRA.(For acute salvage TIMI 2 or even TIMI 1 is good enough) Most IRA accidents happen when trying improve upon this in an ectatic vessel.
  • Risks of stenting in ectatic /Thrombotic segment is real
  • There can be a useful role for  STENTYS self-expanding stents in localized ectasia (Ref 1)
  • Long-term OAC (Soon NOACs) is a perfect remedy for protecting this type of coronary. 

* By the way, who are all bothered to know LAD anatomy in this patient.  Is it surprising the  RCA is sending collaterals to the left side in its hour of crisis? Yes. LAD had chronic sub-total lesion as well.

Reference

1.The Role of Self-expanding Stents in Patients with Atypical Coronary Anatomy | ICR Journal https://www.icrjournal.com/articles/role-self-expanding-stents-patients-atypical-coronary-anatomy

 

2.

 

Yes, it is a triple vessel disease, with one tight lesion and at least two other significant lesions. One of them appears diffuse as well. 

Representative Image: Source courtesy DOI: 10.14740/cr548w LicenseCC BY-NC 4.0

“What to do next?. Is he symptomatic?  Yes. Definitely has significant angina” but LV function is normal.

“Ok then. If you are daring enough, ask this question”.

Which lesion is causing angina?

No easy answer at all. Try looking for some clues right from history, ECG, stress ECHO, meticulous assessment of individual lesions. Realize, even sophisticated imaging like SPECT, PET functional MR, may not help much either.

Oftentimes, we need to use the lean resources of collective common sense and clinical acumen. 

  • If it is post ACS status,  consider residual ischemia in the culprit artery is the cause for angina.
  • Second, consider the tightest lesion as angina-related.
  • Or the complex, eccentric, thrombotic lesion is responsible.
  • Next, consider LAD as default lesion as  angina related artery (Statistically right 75%, prognostically perfect decision) 
  • Watch for ECG changes during chest pain (ST depression usually don’t localize, but experience tell us V5 /V6 ST depression is more likely to be LAD ischemia )
  • Echo wall motion defect either during rest or (more usefully) in stress can really help. (It needs some effort to look for Wall motion mapping with coronary lesion subtending segment)
  • What about balloon inflation test during PTCA ? . Prompt angina when a lesion is occluded may give a direct clue.

Want to get more confused?

  • Ask your colleagues for an opinion either online or offline.
  • Do FFR/QFR/IFR  and OCT and look for intracoronary pressure-flow data and plaque burden. We are entitled to get excited about fibrous cap thickness, and hunt for vulnerable lesions and decide thereupon.  

Finally some easy options. 

Which lesion is causing angina? Never entertain that troubling question at all. (Need not  squeeze your coronary intellect you know ) 

Consider every lesion as important 

  • Get ready to stent all three or more lesions.(Many times forbidden though !)
  • (or) More convenient, refer to CABG. (Surgeons will welcome for sure )

Final message

Which lesion is causing angina? is indeed an important query one should raise. This paves way for selective focussed PCI in deserving lesions alone. However, when dealing with complex lesions subsets. the most pragmatic way as of today is to educate the patient and include them in the decision-making process (Never forget to offer medical management as a permanent option, especially if there is no critical LAD disease, and say thanks to  ISCHEMIA/COURAGE/ BARI 2D.)

Late PCI: This is a tricky topic to discuss on any day. A tight walk on the evidence base and a narrow risk-benefit ratio. The problem starts right from the genesis point of the true-time window, to the host-dependent myocyte response to hypoxia. Finally, we have the ubiquitous open artery hypothesis, that can taunt even the best brain in cardiology.  

 

 

 
 

We know the right ventricle is a weak pump compared to LV. This is evident from the triangular pressure-volume loop of RV. RV not only generates less pressure, its thin wall and its direct connectivity to the extrathoracic compartment make it vulnerable to hemodynamic fluctuations whenever Intrathoracic pressure swings.

Note the lowly lying pressure-volume loop of the right ventricle. RV is a too gentle chamber and needs to be handled with extreme care especially when it is failing acutely.

Patients on ventilators are typically exposed to iatrogenic rise and fall in right heart pressure. If continuous airway pressure is kept high it’s directly add on to RV afterload. The second adverse event is through interrupting venous return (preload). 

 Effect of mechanical ventilation on RV

  • RV preload is reduced (If they drop too low – they are equivalent to be in “Status Valsalva maneuver” ) 
  • RV afterload increases when Inspiratory airway pressure is increased. (
  • If RV is grossly dilated it may encroach LV and interfere with its function (Reversed Bernheim effect )
  • Many of the unexplained hypotension and reduced cardiac index are due to suboptimal ventilator setting
  • Ventilator increases the mean RA pressure, and if there is PFO, it can shunt right to left and aggravate the preexisting systemic hypoxia. 

In some of the situations where RV is already in the fighting mode for survival, imagine its plight when it had to take on the adverse setting of the ventilator as well. This happens in RV infractions. Pulmonary embolism,  dilated cardiomyopathies, Post heart transplant, and in general in many  ARDS patients. Discussing the ventilatory settings and a sound understanding of the prevailing hemodynamics of patients is so important.

Settings need to be optimized (Good to acquire a basic knowledge of from an Intensivist/Anesthetist)

  • .Optimal PEEP (Often dynamic but <18cm H2o) 
  • Tidal volume 
  • Avoid Hypoxic pulmonary vasoconstriction and hypercarbia (<60mmhg)
  • RV dysfunction can be an independent indication Proning the patient (Apart from PaO2/Fio2 ratio) 

Final message

It is a paradox, for patients with LV, failure ventilators instantly help as it unloads the left ventricle and relieves pulmonary congestion on the go. The same can’t be said about RV dysfunction. Ventilators interfere with RV  in multiple complex ways. However, simple settings change can improve blood pressure dramatically. Always aim for an RV protective ventilation strategy. Many times It’s in our hands to let the tired RV free, from fighting its friend (or foe).

Reference

A comprehensive resource

1.Disselkamp M, Adkins D, Pandey S, Coz Yataco AO. Physiologic Approach to Mechanical Ventilation in Right Ventricular Failure. Ann Am Thorac Soc. 2018 Mar;15(3):383-389.

2.krishnan 2015 Download

 

3.A. Paternot, X. Repessé, and A. Vieillard-Baron, “Rationale and description of right ventricle-protective ventilation in ARDS,” Respiratory Care, vol. 61, no. 10, pp. 1391–1396, 2016.

 

Sharing a presentation on lipid control done in 2020. This talks about newer strategies beyond statins.