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. 


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.   


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 .


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.

It was the final case on weekend Echocardiogram review day, I asked my fellow for a brief summary of the patient. 

A 5 -minute conversation

“Yes, sir, he is a 62-year-old male retired govt officer. He has a severely stenosed aortic valve, with a peak gradient of 90 mmHg and a mean gradient that comes to almost 50 mmHg. LV  EF is 58%, GLS is 18, LVH is obvious. LA is not dilated (Didn’t measure volume though), but DT is short. Valve orifice is hovering around 1cm, mild calcium noted in LCC  I am not sure whether it’s bi or tricuspid still. The annulus is 22mm. The mitral valve is perfect, no calcium spill over to the mitral curtain and the rest of the annulus”.

“That is ok, what for he has come”?

“A GP from Tambaram has referred him after he detected a murmur over the chest”.

“Oh Ok. What are his symptoms”?

“He is denying any symptoms”.  

“Are you sure? did you ask him specifically about it during exertion”? 

“Yes, he says he can climb 3 flights of stairs. (In fact, he was sort of amused when I told him to be frank in his expression,since  he has a potentially serious obstruction in the main valve that connects his heart and body.”

“I agree, but his reaction was not inappropriate I thought, after all, he didn’t feel any symptoms right”. “So what shall we do for him?  TAVR? SAVR? or Leave him alone? Shall we put him on the treadmill? to document symptoms? Is it that risky”? 

“But , he says he can walk for a mile or two every day” 

“That’s fine. Can you really predict when his ventricle will fail and he may land up in a semi-emergency surgery?

“I think we can’t,  but why is he is so asymptomatic sir”?

“Wow, that’s more than a million-dollar question. You need to address that query to the vascular Goddess. I don’t know the answer.It is all about the ability of the heart to perfectly balance the ventricle and aorta in spite of severe obstruction. It is something like TIMI 3 flow and good FFR  in a patient with 90% occlusion.) My guess is, the LV does this by modulation of systemic pressure &  resistance in such a way , it neither feels the strain nor does it reduce the stroke volume much. By the way,  have you heard about this ? Z- Va score. I would like you to read about that. It will help you understand the hemodynamic nuances of severe AS and how the ventricle manages to serially couple the afterload of the vascular system”. 

“Make a pardon sir, I haven’t heard about it. What is Zva? 

“Never mind. It is not a new index. Was first introduced 16-years ago by Martin Briand et al from Quebec, heart Institute Canada  J Am Coll Cardiol 2005 Jul 19;46(2):291-8.  Z Va score(Valvulo-Arterial) is the collective flow impedance of the aortic valve and the entire aorta. It is more attractively defined as the cost of blood pressure in mmHg for pushing one ml of blood per body square meter area

Formula for Z va : (Systolic BP × Mean gradient)/ Stroke volume Index

Unit : mmhg /ml/m²

Normal value:  < 3.5 to 4.5 (Actually no normality, rather it must be acceptable value .It is still being defined )  if the cost is more than 5mmhg it suggests significant Aortic stenosis) A high value > 4.5 is a definite index of poor outcome. In a well-compensated heart, Zva is maintained far less than 5 and many such patients are asymptomatic as well. Zva has specific clinical value in all critical AS especially so if they are asymptomatic. It is no longer a research topic, has an important role in the bedside too. Here is an excellent resource on Z Va score from ESC.


Final message 

The timing of AVR in aortic stenosis is very critical. All symptomatic severe AS must be immediately intervened. Currently, with surgical risk falling rapidly ( & the option of TAVR looming large) even many of the asymptomatic AS need to be considered for valve intervention at the earliest before or at the onset of LV dysfunction. Zva’s score will definitely add more light to our  limited hemodynamic wisdom in aortic stenosis(Zeineb Hachicha  JACC 2019) 

ASD device closure has become a de-facto modality for most ostium secundum defects(<35mm). The stupendous success of this procedure is attributed to careful pre and Intra-procedural Imaging, new generation hardware and of course the ever-improving expertise among Interventional cardiologists.

Still, there is one issue that is bothersome. It is the late complications of this device and the need for follow-up (Unlike surgery where close and forget option seems real and confer lot of comforts) The delayed mechanical complications are now extremely rare still  follow up of these patients is advised.

What is the mechanism of Aortic erosion in ASD device closure ?

The IAS is a dynamic structure. (Ask any echoc’ardiographer ,how ASD size varies with cardiac cycle.) The device should sit right across all rims including the  Aortic rim . If the device if larger , and if the Aortic rim is less it has on other option but to splay over the Aorta . Enthusiastic young cardiologists should be aware this splaying is not in our control at all. Not all splaying are good and safe as well. If its not smooth and if the septum is mal-aligned there could be friction Injury to Aorta. A very early manifestation of device dislodgement and later a trickle of  pericardial effusion. This should be watched for. (Please be reminded a early pericardial minimal effusion due to sudden shrinkage of RA, RV and due to some unknown hypersensitivity response ? can confuse us )

Link between deficient Aortic rim and Erosion : An unsettled Issue (But , we settled it ! )

One issue that is poorly understood is, many Interventional cardiologists believe strongly that the length (and even quality) of Aortic rim is the least important and need not to be respected. I am still not clear on what basis this piece of Interventional literature came in. This is exactly is the reason even novices take liberty and large devices are implanted casually encroaching the Aorta. Though most cardiologists shrug of this risk of Aortic rim deficiency and subsequent erosion,  at least one study clearly showed a serious link between the two. I feel the issue is not yet settled and demands re-scrutiny.

This presentation was made in Tamil Nadu Interventional (TIC)council meet at held recently


This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is aortic-erosion-2-1.gif

Link to the PPT presentation aortic erosion 2

Final message 

After going through all relevant literature as on 2019 , the incidence of aortic erosion is rare but the fear is real (Many feel it is paranoid and largely unfounded ) I won’t agree though.The message must be, a good quality Aortic rim is important too.

However, a properly sized device, perfectly delivered with good Image assistance by a trained cardiologist in a high volume center (? >25/year) shall prevail over surgery in most patients with ASD. 


Further issues : Stroke risk with ASD device 

One more Issue with ASD closure device is delayed embolic episodes from thrombus attached to device. This is prevented by  routine anti platelet drugs practiced by certain Institutions .The new generation devices (Occlutech Germany) has modified the LA side of the disc (No Hub) to reduce this risk

Some of the questions  addressed  in this presentation

1.What happens to fetal blood pressure during maternal hypotension how good is fetal autoregulation?

2.Why is LSCS increasingly preferred mode of delivery in heart disease complicating pregnancy challenging the traditional scientific concept?

3.What is likely hood of patients with moderate mitral stenosis developing pulmonary edema during prolonged 2nd stage of labor?

3.What is the missing link between PIH and PPCM? How prepartum cardiomyopathy differs from postpartum?

4.Is Eisenemneger really an absolute contraindication for pregnancy?

5. How can we continue VKAs warfarin or Acitrom throughout pregnancy? What are the potential problems of double switching one at 6th week from VKA to Heparin and again from heparin to VKA  at  12th week?

Hope, the man-made hematological bridge in pregnancy has been finally liberated from confusion (Who is saying not yet?)


6. On what evidence base the safety margin of 5mg cutoff for Warfarin and 3mg for Acitorm was decided?

7. Who is insisting on us to do Anti-Xa monitoring for LMWH in pregnancy? Is it really needed? What does the American society of hematology say?  (ASH guidelines for VTE in pregancy 2018) Why we don’t insist on Xa estimation in acute coronary syndrome?

8. What is the inflection point of at which risk of termination is almost at equipoise with continuing pregnancy in various heart diseases.

A GIF run-through of the presentation.

PDF & video version will be posted


The ultimate reference 

Dr. Duckett Jones, the famed American physician, from Good Samaritan hospital, Boston would be a proud man in heaven, to find his criteria still being celebrated all over the globe. He will also be pleased to know his home country USA  is painted green on the world RHD map due to his untiring efforts that began in 1944. Of course, what the rest of the world has done in the last century has left us wanting (including the WHO).


Global RHD map. Note the red and brown shading in south Asia and Africa. It is obvious, RHD is more about economics, equality, and poverty, rather than aggression from an otherwise innocuous microbe called streptococci which is omnipresent all over the world with equal concentration.

How to diagnose  Acute rheumatic fever (ARF)?

Simple. Apply jones’ criteria. Funnily, I found it can be a most difficult exercise to do, especially If we realize ARF can defy all the three components it carries. ARF  need not be acute, need not have rheumatic symptoms & curiously they need not have fever as well. Did you note this? The entire disease process can be subclinical in 50 % of children. Intelligent patients must realize, how scientifically quixotic conditions we, the doctors are expected to practice medicine.

There is one more ongoing confusion in many of us. Is Jone’s criteria meant for diagnosing the first episode of ARF, or second, or any subsequent episodes?  In the strict sense, it can be applied only for the first episode. But it may still help diagnose recurrent episodes. Dr. Jones was so precise in his observation when he suggested the in the later episodes .we may able to diagnose ARF only with minor criteria. But the lacuna here is,  recurrent episodes can be so atypical and carditis or chorea may be the only manifestation of that episode making the classical Jones triad redundant. 

Someone asked in my class Is there an entity chronic rheumatic fever? 

If you describe ARF  as a separate entity there must be Chronic RF? logical Isn’t it? . Do you think Jones wouldn’t have thought about this.  We don’t know,  echocardiography was not even thought of at that time. Better, we stop discussing Chronic RF. (Simply put,  all chronic indolent carditis with raised ESR  might fit into this imaginary entity)

How important is supportive evidence to Jones’s criteria? 

When we have trouble in fixing even the major criteria, where is the question for evidence for preceding streptococcal sore throat come in? By the time we see these children, a throat culture is no longer positive, though ASO titer/Anit DNAse might help. (It must be recalled that culture doesn’t differentiate carrier state from acute infection, a single value of ASO titer ahs little value) 

I asked a few of my senior pediatric professors how often they depend (or demand)  supportive criteria to diagnose ARF.  They agreed in unison, that they never felt the need for it except for academic or epidemiological reasons. When Jones wrote this criterion in 1944, he also never intended to include evidence for previous streptococcal sore throat. 

Final message 

Is the time nearing to revise Jones’s criteria again and restore with an original suggestion and get rid of supportive criteria?  Maybe Dr. Jones wouldn’t object to this as his aim was to tackle a global Pando-endemic rather than worry about few errors of overdiagnosis.


* For the pure academics, there is exactly the opposite write-up demanding RTpcr to be included as evidence for streptococci sore throat in this site.  https://drsvenkatesan.com/2020/10/01/role-rt-pcr-in-the-diagnosis-of-rheumatic-fever-rhd/





Rheumatic fever: Session 2 Preventive strategies 

Rheumatic fever and RHD can be prevented at multiple levels.

Primordial: Preventing all sore throats (that will include Streptococcal ) by promoting social and domestic distancing as we do now for the Novel C pandemic.

Primary prevention: It is about preventing the first episode of RF after getting a sore throat. A course of penicillin after sore throat and trying to interrupt the RF in its incubation period is the aim. I don’t understand why preventing sore throat after exposure to streptococcal droplets doesn’t come under primary prevention too.

Secondary: Preventing recurrent episodes of RF after an established diagnosis of the first episode. ( which of course can be subclinical) This is the classical prevention of monthly injection of benzathine penicillin.

* All levels of prevention activities at the level of the throat. None works in the heart directly.

*Tertiary prevention (Treatment ): It is treating the valve disease and trying to reset the rheumatic clock. Tackling the mitral valve disease with PTMC/MVR is the least economical and most expertise-consuming modality. (Of course more gratifying to both patients and cardiologist) It is all too common even in big tertiary centers do regularly PTMC but shrug off patients from monthly penicillin injections. There should be an in-house responsibility for the cardiologist, that  they should ensure at least 100 RHD patients get proper penicllin prophylaxis ( for every PTMC they do)

 Which is the best mode of prevention?

Primordial prevention is great. But the best yield will come from primary prevention.If you want to really avoid serious bites on the heart try to protect the heart from the first episode of ARF as the first bite is more intense. To make matters worse, the injury from the first bite is likely to continue irrespective of monthly penicillin.(Karthikeyan G, Mayosi BM. Is primary prevention of rheumatic fever the missing link in the control of rheumatic heart disease in Africa?Circulation2009120:709–

Can WHO enforce a world microbial order?

One real option that exists, which many feel is artificially stonewalled, is asking vaccine giants like Pfizer, Astra, or  BioNtech to fix a deadline and accelerate the process for a global Rhematic vaccine (Wating in the pipeline for 60 years you know)  with their newly accrued corona Intelligence. (We have few name suggestions Rhemavax or Rhemshield waiting  !)


Have we ever wondered how six liters of blood in our body flows like a live stream, maintaining the fluidity life long, in spite of an active coagulation system in situ, ready to freeze at the slightest provocation (Invisible vascular wear & tear!) This housekeeping job, within the vast network of the human vascular tree, is silently accomplished by a less apparent system called fibrinolytic system. D-dimer is a physiological breakdown product of this system . D-dimer comes from fibrin monomer. The D in D-dimer stands for the domain. (See below) The ability to detect the D-dimer in the bedside has given us a good opportunity to monitor intravascular thrombus formation and subsequent dissolution in health and disease.



Formation of D-dimer from fully formed fibrin clot with the help of factor X111a and plasmin

Learning from a false alarm of pulmonary embolism

Recently I came across a pregnant woman in the third trimester with sudden onset dyspnea. Ongoing panic and a  hyper response  ER protocol ended up in D-dimer estimation. It was 2600μg/ml, which created a false alarm among obstetricians. She was started on heparin by then. Though her saturation was 95%, ECG was normal.An emergency bedside echo revealed normal right atrium and ventricle, no pulmonary HT. The diagnosis of PE was now rejected confidently. The much-dreaded dyspnea turned out to be some patient anxiety. Unnecessary exposure of a fragile pregnant lady to heparin was reverted with much difficulty as no one was willing to discount jacked-up D-dimer still. (Such is the power of sophisticated biomarkers and numbers! I asked them to report the elevated D-dimer as false-positive in bold letters in the case sheet and applied the break to bring the high voltage obstetrical -cardiac consult to a halt ) 

What is the normal D-dimer levels in blood?

In the strict sense, D- dimer can’t  have normality. It is flushed-out molecular debris from clots, levles of which fluctuates depending upon the fibrinolytic load on a given day. It is further limited by lab standardization issues and methodology. (ELISA vs latex ) Currently, a level of <500μg/ml is considered diagnostically useful to rule out DVT/PVE (Good sensitivity /low specificity)

What happens to D-dimer levels in pregnancy?

D-dimer levels are nornally high in pregnancy, and  can reach very high levels as well. 

What is this source of D-Dimer In pregnancy? 

  • Pregnancy is a procoagulant condition. (Estrogen Induced effect on fibrinogen and other clotting factors especially factor 2  & 7 ) We presume it is due to more  microthrombus activity in materno placental capillary circulation. When there is a pro-coagulant activity, fibrinolytic activity is also high hence elevating FDP and D dimers. 
  • Pregnancy-associated with diabetes /PIH/preeclampsia elevate it further due to subclinical  endothelial dysfunction 
  • Placental source for D-dimer is documented. (Might be a marker for partial abruption as well)
  • The role of the fetus in generating or triggering maternal procoagulant activity is possible with a reverse breach in the placental maternal barrier. (Many of stillbirth, Intrauterine deaths / DIC in mother could reflect  pathological faces of hypercoagulation states) 

Normality redefined in pregnancy 

This paper has something important. Didn’t  knew this till now. In the third trimester, D-Dimer can reach up to 4400 in diabetic mothers. It is also worthwhile to note the other common causes for high D- dimers sepsis,  autoimmune disorders* and occult malignancy,

*In fact, every normal pregnancy can be termed as a relative autoimmune disorder, as it is impossible for the mother to go through the pregnancy without  immunological modification of the host (by fetus or host itself)  



Final message 

Never rely on elevated D-dimer in isolation to diagnose DVT/Pulmonary embolism. This is especially true in pregnancy where even very high levels are physiological. The commonest cause for dyspnea in pregnancy will continue to be anxiety, anemia, PIH & physical deconditioning, and weight gain  (not the mitral valve stenosis /PE/or peripartum cardiomyopathy). Yes, It may appear rewarding to think  like a specialist, but please realize if we diagnose rare entities, we are “rarely likely” to be correct and the consequences of that are not always pleasant.   


1.Siennicka A, Kłysz M, Chełstowski K, et al. Reference Values of D-Dimers and Fibrinogen in the Course of Physiological Pregnancy: the Potential Impact of Selected Risk Factors-A Pilot Study. Biomed Res Int. 2020;2020:3192350.

2.Gutiérrez García I, Pérez Cañadas P, Martínez Uriarte J, García Izquierdo O, Angeles Jódar Pérez M, García de Guadiana Romualdo L. D-dimer during pregnancy: establishing trimester-specific reference intervals. Scand J Clin Lab Invest. 2018 Oct;78(6):439-442. 



A consult with a 62-year-old patient in my office 

Hi, welcome?  What is your problem?

Nothing doctor. I am good. 

What brings you here then?

I used to have angina before. Now, I am fine doctor but confused after undergoing this angiogram. I need an opinion.

How is your exercise capacity?

I do walk, work, and able to do almost all regular activities.

Why did you do this angiogram then? 

Had to undergo this after a doubtful stress test, Now, I am told by at least 2 eminent cardiologists, that I am having just one functional coronary artery, and it is dangerous for the all-important LAD to live at the mercy of RCA. They said they will try to fix it with wires first or CABG if it failed.

After explaining the excellent backup from RCA to LAD, I told him, “Yes, most scientific cardiologists are not trained to respect collateral circulations, in spite of the fact, many CTOs fall under class 3 (contra)Indication for revascularisation. I must admit I am not that scientific but it ensures my patients don’t really suffer unnecessarily”

“Make a pardon doctor, I didn’t get you, what I am  supposed to do ?” 

I meant, your collateral circulation is good enough and you may not need any intervention.

Are you sure doctor?

I don’t know why I was so blunt in my response  “If you believe me forget the lesion. If you don’t, get it stented or go for CABG as per the majority advice of the eminent “. I am sorry. I think I cleared your confusion.



What shall we do when encountering a mobile right heart thrombi waiting to get dislodged at any time?

A series of question comes as the answer to this query 

Feeling helpless?  What will be the consequence?

Massive pulmonary embolism?  Can we thrombolyse and dissolve it ?

Logistics of emergency open-heart surgery are too many. What about capturing the thrombus?   A dream thought, now seemingly possible.Inari Flowtriever though made originally for pulmonary embolism can come in handy in any foreign body removal. I think It is approved by FDA. Here is a case report from Dr Gautam reddy.

Other potential use for this device

One more possible indication for Inari device is for capturing large infective vegetation even on the left side .(Currently, the vegetation of more than  15mm is  considered an indication for surgery irrespective of the valve and clinical condition) Inari device might be tried here if there is no need for valve replacement surgery. May be we need to have an aortic filter as well in case of dislodgment while retrieving. There are many capture ,filter devices in the development stage. (Embrella, Claret, & Trigaurd)

Further reading




Because . . . its current course is not always in the right direction &  not everyone is ready for course correction as well!


1.Hasnain-Wynia R. Is evidence-based medicine patient-centered and is patient-centered care evidence-based? Health Serv Res. 2006;41(1):1- 

Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM)  is the most common primary disorder of cardiac muscle. The incidence is about 1 in 500, which would mean 1.5 crore HCM patients will be living on our planet at any moment. The root cause of pathology is located in 20 odd genes that define cardiac muscle protein integrity. (Myosin, Troponin, Titin, etc) This leads to the bizarre architecture of cardiac muscle, prone to progressive fibrosis.(Paradoxically, 90% of HCM have normal or supernormal contractility till very late stages, proving that the much-dreaded term myocardial disarray has little effect on contractility. It is all the more funny, as we strive hard to suppress this excess contractility caused by disarray with beta-blockers.

SCD is the scary face of this disease. If the incidence of SCD is less than 1 %  per year, do a little maths to know how many will succumb every year to this disease. However, It is the symptoms like exertional dyspnea (most common,) followed by syncope and rarely angina that bring HCM  patients to the physician. Though the pathology is diffuse and global, I don’t understand why we got stuck with the outflow tract gradients and dynamic obstruction. HCM is an equally a disorder of LV inflow obstruction (rather a restriction). It can be presumed myocardial disarray makes more impact on diastole than systole. The relationship between inflow and outflow gradient is a poorly explored area in HCM. Detailed analysis of E and A velocity profiles along with tissue Dopper will throw more light in symptomatic patients. 



The importance of LVOT gradient in HCM was questioned by Criley more than 30 years ago.

There may not be many takers for this concept in spite of our realization, that the major symptom of HOCM is not due to outflow tract obstruction. Further, sudden cardiac death risk is not fully negated by drugs and surgical myectomy. Christopher J. McLeod EHJ 2007) No surprises we require the help of ICD to tackle the SCD risk even after the relief of obstruction.

How to measure the gradient in HCM?

Image source: .Jeffrey B.Geske  Assessment of Left Ventricular Outflow Gradient: Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy Versus Aortic Valvular Stenosis  JACC: Cardiovascular Interventions  Volume 5, Issue 6, June 2012, Pages 675-681

  • Continuous-wave Doppler is to be used for net LVOT gradient.
  • Pulse doppler to analyze regional, local gradient profile within LV chambers
  • HCM we need to follow up with peak gradient unlike valvular AS  because unlike valvular AS gradient  is not uniform to be differentiated for MR jet (Ref Jeffrey B.Geske Mayo clinic )
  • The lobster claw pattern (M V Sherrid  JASE 1997) is academically exciting, as it documents the sign of obstruction. (Please note,  pulses bisferiens is clinical lobster claw bite, felt in the neck )
  • This is the only entity “standing echo” to be done. compared to sitting and semi-supine position.(Stand echo is the simplest provocation )
  • Chronic BB therapy does reduce the gradient.(There is some evidence, disopyramide beats BBs for this purpose ) 
  • Associated systemic hypertension can influence the gradient in a complex manner(meaning either under overestimate )

How to provoke gradient if the resting gradient is low.

  • Valsalva maneuver 
  • Post VPC
  • Excercise

Dountaimine stress test should not be used as it can generate pseudo gradients. Should we provoke otherwise asymptomatic zero gradients healthy HCM? It is debatable and can be an unsolicited invitation to imaginary troubles.

Importance of MRI: Morphology can be more important than gradient 

It has now become a dictum every patient of HCM must undergo MRI. This not only helps to define the morphology of LV, different subsets of HCM, and risk of SCD , it also guides the surgeon where exactly to resect,  and how much mass of myocardium to be removed. MRI defines mitral valve anatomy more clearly and helps whether AMl plication is required or not in addition to myectomy.(Elongated bulky Mel is competing for space in the narrow corridor of LVOT, you know ) MRI clearly helps to avoid over-enthusiastic alcohol septal ablation as well. 

Principles of management  

  1. Symptom reduction, risk estimation, SCD risk reduction, and correcting associated arrhythmias like AF /VPDs, etc.
  2. Beta-blocker help relieves symptoms and control most  VPDs or AF. No drug effectively eliminates the risk of SCD. (But, I doubt it’s wrong, BBs must have a positive impact on this we are failing to prove it ).
  3. ICDs are promoted as a mainstay to prevent SCD.It should be emphasized ICDs can’t reduce the troublesome exertional dyspnea of HCM.It simply prevents(expected to prevent ) SCD after allowing the VT/VF to occur. (ICD do come with its own morbidity  and anxiety, Sub-cutaneous ICD is just beginning to be popular, doesn’t have VT control though no ATP algorithm ) 
  4. Surgery regresses LVOT gradient and regress symptoms still may be the best option (Dual-chamber pacing, alcohol ablation, (now RF) are mostly interventional excesses with unproven worthiness. Additional mitral valve repair strategy during myectomy has some proven value.
  5. Mavacamten (the proposed new magic drug ) is shown to steer and stabilize the two-headed myosin interaction with actin , thus reducing the force of contraction at the same time not inhibiting it truly. The mechanism is great on paper, let us see the follow up of EXPLORER study patients)
  6. Counseling  & reassurance( The real risk of SCD is far less than the fear of SCD.I have seen the relatives of HCM patients are more worried than HCM patients with a 30mm IVS. This is amplified by a crazy battery of genetic tests with dubious predictive value. In my opinion, one need not do this even as the current guidelines trying hard to make it appear as a pleasant  affair)

Final message

We are taught right from our early days in medical schools, HCM is synonymous with dynamic LVOT obstruction. However, to hang our thoughts exclusively on this hemodynamic concept lands us in management errors. Let us learn to look beyond  LVOT gradients in HCM. We need to look at the overall morphology of LV, mitral valves, LA dynamics, etc. Please realize, there is a huge mass of myocardium sitting silently not eliciting any gradients, still good enough to cause symptoms and dictate the natural history. 


1.Jeffrey B.Geske Michael W.Cullen PaulSorajja  Assessment of Left Ventricular Outflow Gradient: Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy Versus Aortic Valvular Stenosis  JACC: Cardiovascular Interventions  Volume 5, Issue 6, June 2012, Pages 675-681


For the pure academics, please read this.The ultimate advisory from the authoritative source.