Archive for January, 2011

Left main divides into two. Some times into three . Very rarely into 4

Look  at this angiogram ,  This looks  like  a quadrification, if not quadrification equivalent

Clinical implication

A 4 way division invariably means the OM and diagonal or going to be diminutive.These people are expected to have favorable coronary hemodynamics during ACS , and  left main lesions are  less likely  to  occur


This article is from Singapore medical Journal

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Life cycle of PTCA : Let us hope it do not become extinct !

Does PTCA  , a great Innovation for mankind,  is facing a threat of  extinction ?

It seems so . . . the stents  are losing its shine  in most situations. A simple evidence  . . . for that . . . can  be found in answering the following question

What drives the extensive research in biodegradable stents now ?

The simple answer is , we are fed up with the metals inside the coronary  artery. We want to get rid of it !

Too much of knowledge , often blunts our senses . Our track record clearly  reveals this fact. We needed a major study INTERHEART to tell the world   that  ,exercise is good and tobacco is bad for heart  !  Now ,we forgot a  simplest solution for  getting rid of  metal inside the coronary artery ,  which  is  “not to implant  the stent”  at all ! (Instead we do billion dollar research for making  bio – absorbable stents ,  which in the first place may not be required in the majority !

Read the related article . Does POBA has a role now ? in my site

The only situation  , where PCI   may  withstand the test of time could be in ACS (Both in STEMI and high risk NSTEMI !) PCI is cosmetic in most of the chronic coronary syndromes .

Final message

Our fight against human atherosclerosis will have to be , by medical means .PCI at best will  provide  a supportive role in selected patient group. It requires lots of common sense  and   scientific ignorance to achieve this.   Risk reduction ,  prevention , optimal   medical therapy  will have to play a dominant role in the next few decades .  This is something similar to the environmental issues we face in protecting our planet .No amount of green industry  will protect  the earth . It requires better social and  behavioral  ethics  from  mankind   and their  rulers !

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God creates life  with  infinite variation .  The  heart gets  bulk of its blood supply from the left coronary  artery , which divides into two  after a short course.  Bifurcation is the rule . Left main becomes  left circumflex and LAD  in about in 85-90 %.

Note the left main divides into 3 equal caliber vessels.very lucky to have such a branching pattern !Distal left main is unloaded by three large ostia . This makes stasis of blood in left main very unlikely . LAO caudal view



Note : The OMs are small in these people. RAO caudal view

Few men and women are blessed with three branches from LCA . The anatomical and physiological importance of this  branching pattern  is not well analysed in the literature .There  could be  few advantages  of having a trifurcation instead of  bifurcation .

  • Left main  impedence is less in trifurcation . This is due to the fact ,  left main empties into three distinct ostia rather than two.The combined  cross sectional area of these three ostia  confers a hydrodyamic advantage.
  • The importance of  any proximal LAD lesion in these patients , is negated  by  33 % as two other vessels are there to take care the  rest of the heart.
  • A large Ramus usually  supplies a vast area in the angle between LAD and LCX.  This   has a potential  to protect against ventricular  fibrillation during acute occlusion of LAD  by providing  electrical stability .

Disadvantage of trifurcation !

  • It is also a fact , people with a large Ramus may have a trade off by having a diminutive diagonal or OM .
  • A trifurcation with a small calibered  ramus  can often  be a disadvantage , as it is prone for atherosclerosis  since it  restricts  left main flow  by  venturi effect . (The first rule of atherosclerosis states its  prone at branching points)

* A related blog  elsewhere in my site . The explanations  offered above are based on personal observation .


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Few web sites provide   free  cardiology  service.  This one from cardiomath beats  all  ! It makes the job easier for all those cardiologists who spend  lots of time in echo lab . It provides  simple  online tool  for all common calculations in clinical echocardiography

Here is  the link to the website of cardiomath

With  due  Courtesy   to

Author: Dr. Chi-Ming Chow  Developer: Edward Brawer  Illustrator: Ellen Ho
Sponsored by  Canadian society of echocardiography

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Nothing in this world is black and white. In fact,  most events are in between . The irony is , our brain  always wants to view  things in two distinct entities !

  • Success or failure
  • Beautiful or ugly
  • Good or bad
  • Win or lose,
  • Rich and poor etc . . . etc

So it is no  surprise !  cardiologists  also travel in the same boat !

They classified  the events after thrombolysis   into two dogmatic categories . Successful  thrombolysis or failed thrombolysis   . . .  as if no other event  can occur in between .

Traditionally 50% regression of ST segment is called successful .   What  about 30%  and 40 % ST regression ?

Further , there is an important caveat  in the timing,  as we  traditionally assess ,  90 minutes of thrombolysis .

Consider the following  situation  :

  1. Thrombolysis  is failed at 90 minutes, but  succeeds  at 120/180  minutes ?
  2. Is 50 % ST regression at 180 minutes is as bad  or as good as 25 % regression at 90 minutes ?
  3. How to label a patient who  is extremely comfortable in spite of ECG criteria of failed thrombolysis ?(Surprisingly this situation is fairly common !)

So, without finding answers to some critical questions , we have defined the success  of thrombolysis with  half baked data .

This is exactly , is the reason we  are unable to do a  valid  study on failed thrombolysis, rescue PCI etc .  We know the results of rescue PCI  ,  always  been  contradictory to the general logic !

It is estimated a substantial number of  STEMI patients following   thrombolysis   fall into a category of partially successful thrombolysis implying partial restoration of blood flow and salvage. The correct definition for  successful thrombolysis and reperfusion should be at the myocardial mass level , and  not at the level of coronary artery.The ECG  is the best available indicator.

Implication for having a  poor definition  of  failed thrombolysis

It is not a rare sight to wheel  in , a patient to a cath lab  with label of failed thrombolysis dangling in his neck  who is clinically  stable  (Has a less than required 50%  ST regression , but a definite, favorable trend with a 30 % ST regression  at 90 minutes  )

How many cardiologists will be willing to abort a CAG/PCI  , as a repeat ECG just  before puncturing  in the  cath lab reveals    successful  thrombolysis ? (little  delayed though !)

If only we have better methods to risk stratify patients following thrombolysis , we can avoid

  • Huge costs incurred
  • Expected and unexpected hazards of doing an emergency  intervention in an adequately salvaged STEMI
  • Hundreds of cardiology man hours can be saved  for better purposes .

Final message

Classifying thrombolyis into  success  or  failure  is a  skewed  way of looking  at this important  issue .

It is an irony ,  cardiologists often  triage LV dysfunction , valve disease , cardiac failure  etc  into 4  grades (  minimal  , mild , moderate or severe  ) . It is  still a mystery ,  why thrombolysis  is never graded  like that ,  and it is always considered as  all or none phenomenon !

There is a substantial number of patients  with partially successful ( or shall we call partially failed !) thrombolyis  .This group must be given adequate attention or inattention  . There  is a urgent need for a through review of how we look at  the post thrombolysis status  . It is better to use the newer imaging modalities like PET/MRI more  liberally to identify  exact sub group  of failed thrombolysis who will benefit form revascularisation .

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Is it not ,  boring to  see  normal coronary arteries every day  ! There need to be surprises  in cath lab to make our time lively  and keep our brain alert .  Have a look at this angiogram in  RAO caudal view.One of our junior cardiology fellows thought it was  a split left main artery .

How can an artery split . . .of course the image indeed looks like that !

It was indeed an absent left main.  Also called as separate origin of LAD and RCA.

Note : There can be three  types of absent  left main.

  • LAD and LCX from same ostia on the left coronary sinus*
  • LAD and LCX separate  ostia but both from same sinus**
  • LAD from left coronary sinus, LCX from right sided sinus (Probably the  common type )

* Some books mention about a left main of 0 -5mm .

** Very difficult to delineate and is rare

Zero  mm  left main is nothing but  single  ostial origin of both LAD and LCX. A very short left main , say 1 0r 2 mm will practically mimic an absent left main.

Here is the  the dynamic angio image. It is  surprising how a catheter in left sinus is able to visualise the LCX from right sinus so well !

Note the separate origin of LAD and LCX.The LCX was originating near the right sinus.It is intriguing to note even though they originate in different sinuses , the main stem of LAD and LCX wants to maintain a close parallel relation.



Advantages of having  absent left main .

  • It requires no great brains  ,  to predict  the above patient is  immune  to  develop  Left main  or true bifurcation disease
  • Sudden death is  presumed to be less common in this population.

Implications for interventional cardiologists

Guiding catheter selection and positioning could be difficult.

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Manuals are not only for doctors . There are few heart  maintenance manuals for patients as well.

This one from Philadelphia ,  is worth reading and of-course  following  thereafter  !


Some books can be as effective as CABG or PCI .

This  one is definitely in that league  . . .

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God has created  and arranged every organ in an order  with a purpose .  The unique  relationship  of the food tube and  the heart which run silently , posterior  to the heart has evoked much interest for the cardiologists.

Whenever LA is enlarged it pushes the Esophagus back .We also know  the vintage clinical entities   of cardiac  dysphagia that occurred with rheumatic mitral stenosis.

Since the  lower end of  esophagus just hugs  the left atrium , this anatomical concept was successfully exploited   for imaging heart in TEE.Now cardiac  anesthetists routinely use the esophagus as an imaging port during complex mitral valve surgeries.

How  esophagus can be utilized to resuscitate the heart at times of emergency ?

Note , the esophagus does a friendly hug as it crosses the heart posteriorly .It is a perfect anatomical sense , to Image and pace the heart from within the esophagus !


In a  cardiac  arrest  situation , when we need to   rapidly   access to heart  , we have  multiple  options  .Each has some  advantage and few draw backs.

  • Trans-venous pacing   is the standard method,   but even for experts  it needs   few minutes to reach the heart for pacing
  • Trans cutaneous pacing (Zoll)  is  a viable option , but  not widely  popular for some  unknown  reason (Patient discomfort ? High threshold ?)
  • Emergency trans-thoracic  needle pacing option is  a primitive method still can save a life or two on it’s day !

It was in 1980 ,  a dramatic  concept was conceived  . Why not    use the  esophagus as an access   for pacing  the  heart

after all ,  it  reaches as close as possible to the heart !

How to convert  a  Ryles tube into a  a  trans – esophageal  pacing lead ?

There was a certain article on this topic , which I read , when I was cardiology resident. It answers the following. Distance form mouth ,  Discomfort of  the lead ,   Pacing threshold ,  Esophageal burns .

I am unable locate that article. Will  post  it  once I get it.

Limitations of trans-esophageal pacing*

  • The most important limitation is it can pace only the atria with high degree of success.
  • Ventricular pacing is not that successful for the simple reason esophagus is anatomically insulated by the atrial chambers.
  • Tran gastric positioning  may reach  the basal aspects of Left ventricle , but the threshold needed  is too high that will invariably cause  discomfort.This can be used in a dying patient  when there is no  other option .

* Primarily  useful in acute SA nodal defects, sinus arrest or any other atrial electrical failure. Infra- nodal complete heart block trans esophageal pacing may not be effective .

Other potential uses  of trans-esophageal  leads

Over drive pacing

Overdrive entrainment of tachycardias ,  including resistant ventricular tachycardia is possible.

Trans esophageal ECG recording .

This can magnify p waves during supra ventricular tachycardias and aid in decoding narrow qrs tachycardias

Safety  Issues and Caution

Good earthing is necessary .Burns can occur.

Final message

Every cardiac physician is  expected to possess  the expertise to rapidly pace a heart  by trans jugular /subclavian access at times of  emergency .

Further , any modern CCU will have a defibrillator equipped with trans-cutaneous pacer as well. (The  disposable pads are too costly and is a deterrent in many hospitals  !).

This article  explores other possible way to pace the heart in dire emergency situations.

It has one more purpose !  It rekindles   the acumen , motivation  and hard work   of  our  cardiac  ancestors  (Which many of us are pathetically lacking !)


Role of trans-esophageal lead during EP study  atrial fibrillation


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In pacemaker science ,  any pacemaker that maintains AV synchrony is often referred to as physiological pacemaker. This is  of course , a  wrong reasoning .None of the pacemakers available today can be claimed to  be completely physiological .All  pacemakers  which paces the right ventricle  induces IVS dysynchrony (Including  the modern DDD)

Single chamber physiological pacing


Paradoxically ,  the most primitive of pacemakers AAI can be the near perfect physiological  pacemaker . The simple explanation  is ,  In AAI mode , expect for the origin of pacemaker impulse the entire depolarisation and repolarisation  is through the normally existing physiological conducting system .(AV node, HIS, Purkinje etc)

(It not only has atrio ventricular synchrony but also  has ventriculo ventricular and intra ventricular synchrony )

So, technically AAIR  is most physiological pacemaker possible .But  the practical utility of such a pacemaker is limited.It can be used  only in  isolated sinus node dysfunction with intact AV conduction . (The problem is the AV nodal conduction can develop later )  To over come this DDDR pacemaker can be programmed to AAIR as a default mode.


This rate adaptive pacemaker  ,  to a  certain extent  can be termed physiological as the heart rate can improve with exercise . (Still it is unphysiological as it  paces the RV )


This is based on the concept ,  for pacing to be physiological , it  requires  atria  to be  at least sensed not necessarily paced.This mode which has a floating sensor attached to the lead as it crosses the atria.This facilitates atrial sensed ventricular pacing .But many believe  the atrial sensing is not consistent in VDD mode.Currently this mode is not popular.There is scope for improving the atrial sensor technology .

Dual chamber physiological pacing


Both  these are the prototype dual chamber physiological pacing modes.

Bi-Ventricular or triple chamber pacing  ( one atria two ventricle)   are our  elusive answers for attaining perfect physiological pacing . it need to be realized, we simply ,  can not mimic the natural cardiac  conduction system.It is  estimated to be more than 10 miles long specialized fibers .

Final message

In our quest for physiological pacemaker we often forget the fact  , AAI is the most physiological pacemaker mode  available .(It even has  VV synchrony !  )

We should use it liberally whenever possible .Of course ,we cannot use it in complete heart block .Still 50 % the  permanent pacemaker  we implant is for sinus node dysfunction. Many of them could be candidates for AAI mode .If current generation cardiac physicians feel out dated to insert a AAI pacemaker, at the least they should program the DDDR into AAI mode with a mode switching to ventricular pacing modes whenever required.

In spite of all  advantages ,  why atrial based pacemakers are not gaining popularity ?

  • Ignorance
  • Lack of expertise
  • Technical difficulty of fixing atrial  lead
  • Perceived fear of lead dis-lodgement.
  • The fact remains  the  ventricular based pacing  is always safe  in case of sudden AV block due to any reason .

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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 .


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