Archive for May, 2010

“Time is muscle” is  the often quoted “sermon”  in emergency cardiology , implying ,  every patient with STEMI should be taken up for   thrombolysis or primary PCI at the earliest  after the onset of symptoms.

While thrombolysis is the proven method of reperfusion for over 25 years , Primary PCI , a costly , risky but better  alternative is struggling to prove it’s impact in the world of acute coronary syndrome ! (Some may  see non- sense in this statement !  But it still can make sense  !)  In India hardly 3 -5 % of STEMI is taken for primary PCI .This includes the much hyped corporate cardiology centres.

If primary PCI is a revolutionary reperfusion strategy  , why it has not invaded the cardiology field  by strom  ?(A pathetic 5% growth over 15 years will tell the true story !).

We know 6 hours is the acceptable time window before which some form of repefusion must be attempted. A time limit of 90minutes   for the   “door to  balloon”   is  fixed  as optimal for primary PCI .

In other words ,  if primary PCI can be arranged within 60-90 minutes   one  can afford to lose the golden hour !  How does this logic works ?

In fact it does not work ! in many .

The 90 minute criteria is not strictly followed . Common  sense would have it ,  this 90 minute time frame for primary PCI  would  logically be the   “symptom to  balloon time”,

But in reality  the time window of STEMI   is a collection of  following

  1. Symptom recognition  and 911/108 alert
  2. Ambulance arrival time
  3. Ambulance  to ER time (Traffic delays)
  4. ER to Fellow
  5. Fellow to consultant
  6. Consultant decision-making time
  7. Insurance clearance time
  8. ER to Cath lab door time
  9. Cath lab to needle time(Femoral /Radial )
  10. Needle to Balloon time

Where does the   90 minute  rule  for performing primary PCI stand ? It  can  mean many things

After all those hectic  activity  any one of the following is achieved !

Coronary flow – TIMI  3 ?  TIMI  2 ? TIMI 1 ,  Slow flow, Low flow ? No flow , No re-flow ?

* Prehospital thrombolysis avoids atleast   8  (No 3-10)  components  of time delay in our goal to salvage myocardium.

This is the simple reason, why primary PCI is not reaching it”s logical conclusion all over the world.


In simple terms ,  one  do not require a double blinded multicentred trial  to  show  primary PCI  performed at 2 hour time ( 2 hour  + 90 minute door to balloon time )  window   would be  far inferior to   pharmacological thrombolysis done at   15 -30  minute time window  (An ambulance driver can do it !).

Finally the most important fact , the often ridiculed thromolytic agent does not show  discrimination in it’s  effetiveness whoever  administers  it ! A  lay person or an ambulance driver with 10th grade education can open up the coronary artery 70% times  while  a cardiologist with a 20 year training  does the  slightly  improved version of the same job  costing   nearly 100   times( Rs  25oo for streptokinase vs  2 lakh for a PCI )  more  . In  the process  often  the   golden hour is lost ! Apart from this,  primary PCI is fraught with a risk of  procedure related  hazard  and  it is a hugely expertise driven procedure .

One more message  is ,  poor countries need not  feel dejected for not having those sophisticated country-wide cathlabs  and emergency air dropping of patients.What we  need is good transport systems and quick access to a near by   coronary care units with support staff.

Always remember  at any given time frame  , a well equipped  CCU can save  thousand lives more than a cath lab

Note of caution :

This article is written in the  overall interest of cardiac patient in the developing and non developing and Primary PCI can make merry in all those rich countries for the simple reason they can afford to  do that (Not necessarily  cost-effective !) . Still , primary PCI/surgery  is the only option for patients coming with a electrical or mechanical complication.


All that glitters is not Gold !

Know , how even high volume centers  struggle to prove he worthiness of primary PCI !

This is not a small study ,  it  is a huge study involving 5 lakh patients with STEMI spread all over the United states.

The conclusion from  his article indirectly supports the view , an early non PCI approach in STEMI can be superior  even if  infra structure and technical expertise are available  for PCI.

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Human heart is a vital bundle of muscle  weighing  about 300-400 grams. The blood  supply of this muscle  mass  is highly variable . Some areas are abundantly  vascularised ( eg -IVS.) Some areas have a balanced blood supply  or   twin blood supply (Often the  LCX and RCA in the  crux of the heart ). Certain areas have a precarious blood supply . They are  some times called as water shed areas or  the vulnerable  (The Bermuda triangle of the heart ) overlapping zones of   of  LV apex,  LV free wall and  the anterior surface. This  is  often a  no man’s  land .Every major arterial branch  ignores  this area  and shrug of their responsibility .

This  is the reason ventricular free wall and IVS rupture is more common in this area  making the  mechanical complication  a leading cause of mortality in STEMI.

Similarly , even among the survivors , this area is more prone for aneurysmal  dilatation and adverse remodelling .Though . this  is related more to the LV stress distribution (Laplace law)  , early softening  due to watershed infarct of LV apical zone , also play  a major role .

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When the concept of acute  coronary syndrome was at infancy, when there was no echocardiography , when there was no coronary angiogram   when there was no coronary care units either , this man was able to identify a group of patients who are high risk to develop acute MI

These pateints are now refered to as  famous entity  unstable angina !

Serving in  Goverment institution of KEM hospital Bomay , he was instrumental in isolating reserpine which was a powerful anti hypertensive drug those days.

Realise , He is not a official cardiologist as the much hyped DM degree was not there  those days.His life is an strong evidence that , meticulous observation and documentation of simple facts from the bedside  is the many times greater than research done in  sophisticated laborataries !

Life history of Dr.Vakil (1911 -1974)


His famous article on Intermediate coronary syndrome


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Probably , this is  most important question  for a  modern-day cardiologist.

Q : Clinical cardiology as a speciality is  . . .

A.Hale and healthy

B.Dying slowly  and steadily

C.Terminally ill

D.Dead long ago

If your answer is A , it would be a  blatant lie ! If the answer is D , you are a pessimist .

The  real answer could be  somewhere between C and D , more towards  D “

 Why  clinical cardiology has  plunged  in  to  such a sorry state of  affairs  ?

 Why it has become an objectionable sub -speciality among current generation cardiologists ?

You blame it on anything, but the real culprits are pseudomodernity , commercial onslaught and the glamourous mindset of  many cardiologists. In every walk of life  tradition, culture and heritage of the past is preserved except in medicine .There  is rarely a backward journey in medicine  . This ,  in spite  of the fact there are lots of hidden treasures  left by our elders.

Image courtesey : Jupeter Images

Now , cardiology  as a specialty is  in a miserable  state .It has almost become synonymous with putting stents across the obstructive coronary arteries. There is a perception among  juniors (  seniors too ! )  Choosing  clinical cardiology is an inferior  pursuit of cardiology .

Many belive clinical cardiology  means ,  measuring blood pressure , looking at JVP , apical impulse, S1 S2 etc  .Clinical approach  does not end with  Inspection , palpation and auscultation of the  heart .

Then , what could be the defintion for clinical  cardiology in the current era ?

It is the process of application of our mind in toto on the patients symptom and it’s  impact on the overall health  with specific reference to cardiovascular system  .It also refers to  the thought process that will decide the optimal  managemnt strategies .( That puts the patient’s interest first )

In simple terms being clinical , is being sensible  and ethical

For example, a comfortable post MI patient with near normal LV function should be sent home for a later evaluation (If , and only if  he develops significant symptom ) This  is clinical cardiology working at it’s best .

If such a patient is sent to cath lab directly  , clinical cardiology is deemed to have doomed !

Similarly , a patient with Atrial fibrillation with the rapid ventricular rate should receive  digoxin or a beta  or calcium  blocker for rate control as a first measure . If a physician refers such a patient to an  university EP  lab ,  clinical cardiology is deemed to have doomed !

If a patient with ASD with less than 2:1 shunt is adviced device  closure clinical cardiology is considered  failed.

If a patient with renal artery stenosis is blindly stented ,  clinical cardiology is in the highway to death .

If you prescribe a latest generation sartan for your hypertensive patient instead of advising physical activity, diet and lifestyle modification , it implies  clinical cardiology is  given a death sentence and being publically hanged.

 Finally ,   it is the ultimate  mockery of clinical cardiology ,  when a physician diagnoses  cardiac failure  by pro BNP and CVP  , even as the  patient’s lungs are sounding with crackles and the neck veins are violently pounding .

Worse still ,  the same patient miay be  ruled out of cardiac failure  , if  the BNP level  is within normal levels  !

As you  come across   any of  the above situations ,  too often , one  can predict the future of clinical cardiology.

My impression is ,  the mortality  of  clinical cardiology at this point  of time  is ,  it may not survive too long and the  5 year survival  rate appear dismal. Of course ,  in many institutions    especially  the corporate ones ,   it is  already  been packed and sent to the  mortuary !

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Some journals do a great work silently .Impact factors are a non issue for them

It is the content that matters . Pediatric cardiology is one such journal !

Of course , they don’t publish papers  that have  greatest  significance to mankind !

like Telmisartan is not inferior to Ramipril in the mangement of hypertension

and Fondapaurinox  is as effective as regular Heparin   . . . etc  . ..etc

They dedicate themself in the decoding the mysteries of congenital and acquired heart disease of children .

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What will be the pulse rate in a patient who has ventricular bigeminy in ECG with a heart rate of 90 ( 45 sinus beats 45 VPDS/minute ) ?

A.Exactly Same as HR , ie 90/mt

 B.Exactly half of HR , ie  45/mt

C.Can be anything between 45 to 90/mt

D.Any of the above can be true

 The  answer is D . 

I have  noted  ,this simple question in cardiology resident examinations cause great anxiety among students .

Why is it difficult to arrive at an easy answer to this question ?

Traditionally , ventricular ectopic beat were also called extrasystole , implying every ectopic beat shall produce a peripheral pulse .Since ,  we learnt this is not true , we started refering them as VPDs.(Simple ventricular depolarisation which may or may not have a mechanical activity ) So , in a patient whose alternate beat is a VPD  , things become little complicated.

What determines a VPD to acquire  mechanical  energy  or simply  remain as an  electrical event ?

  •  Timing of the VPD* .
  • LV residual volume(LVEDV ) at the onset of  VPD
  • Force of contractility of LV( Of course ,  it is directly related to LVEDV)
  • Temporal relation to  aortic valve opening**

If  the VPD is too early or too late it can not have a mechanical activity . It should be optimally timed midway between two sinus beat to have a good mechnically active VPD. Some refer this as an interpolated VPD .Here, the VPD  becomes a  true extra systole for that individual. So , in patient with ventricualr bigeminy in ECG the pulse rate is usually half , can be same as HR when the coupling interval is optimal or it can be totally irregular as someof the  VPDS gain a mechanical activity and some do not (as often occurs multifocal VPDs. )

* Among the above  four factors timing of the VPDS is the most crucial as it can influence all the other three factors.

** Whatever be the timing or force of contraction aortic valve should be opened to generate a pulse wave. If for some reason this does not happen  there can be intermittent mechanial activity what  we refer to as pulse deficit .

Read a related phenomenon:  Ventricular  paired pacing

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              Recently in a  southern Indian state  a big  cleansing  action against   fake  , spurious and expired  drugs  were carried out .There was  much hue and cry over the issue .  It was found , millions   of such drugs where in circulation and  The Govt has initiated a blanket ban on  all these drugs .Intriguingly it  was the mainstream  pharma  industry that was  indirectly driving  the  whip against these  fakes.

Unless the medical professionals know what is really fake  our   patients  can never  be protected against the fake !  At the outset ,  let us recall the definition of  the word fake

Courtesy  http://www.thefreedictionary.com/fake

Fake means

  •   One that is not authentic or genuine; a sham
  •   Having a false or misleading appearance; fraudulent
  •   To simulate,  feign.
  •  To cause  something inferior or not genuine .
  •  To appear more valuable, desirable, or real by  fraud or pretence

Applying the above definition  , all  the following  will fulfill the criteria  for a  “Fake drug ”

  •  A fake drug can be defined  as a drug which is projected  to have a one action   but does not have that action.
  • A drug which is claimed to have an  action  which is  futile   ( Eg : Antioxidant action of coenzyme q10)
  • A drug which is supported by fake studies.
  • A drug which is  just  better than a placebo but not better than a drug of it’s own class
  • A drug prescribed with a sole intention of  reciprocal benefit with pharma industry
  • A drug which is never tested in the local population.
  • A approved drug  for an  unapporved indication . It becomes  fake for  that  group of patients.(Eg Statins for Aortic stenosis !)
  • A drug or device  which has a class 2b indication as per ACC/AHA has a very high chance of  getting labelled as fakes.

*In simple terms , it is estimated the bottom half or  ( at least  one third)  of any long prescription  in an average Indian prescription  is occupied by  the fake drugs .

(A unnecessary Vitamin, a cardiotoner, a catalytic enzyme, a mitochondrial stimulator, a metabolic juice, a mood enhancer or depressor etc etc . . . )

Final message

In this era of  glorious medical industry   mankind  is  on a futile journey searching for the  elusive kindness and  truth from the industry . The easiest job  in today’s world  is  , fooling around the public. The victims are not only  the patients  but also the medical professionals . The later often do a role of perpetuators as well .

As we  realise , there are  thousands of   fakes  masquerading as true drugs , let  us pray the God  to  give us the strength to identify them  ,   the courage  to resist  the   temptation  . (To  prescribe)

Coming soon  “The greatness of fake drugs “

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