Archive for May, 2018

There is a tough ongoing rivalry between drugs and catheters to conquer the commonest electrical chaos in human heart, namely Atrial fibrillation (AF). Mind you,the confusion about the importance of this arrhythmia is huge and real.Bulk of these episodes are transient , paroxysmal and do not require rigorous management.While stroke prevention seems to be the major aim and target , the real world scenario seems to tell  a different story.

The nomenclature conundrum 

AF may be classified as many ways a learned cardiologists can think . Often it’s done with reference to etiology, duration , rate, neural (sympathetic or parasympathetic)  humoral , cardiac or non cardiac , reversible or irreversible ( Endocrine, Electrolytic, hypoxia etc).

Unlike VT , bifurcating  AF with reference to the  presence or absence of structural heart disease is rarely meaningful.Subclinical atrial interstitial fibrosis in elderly is so common especially so in hypertensive individuals making all lone atrial fibrillation as true structural disease.

Classifying AF with reference to atrial enlargement again is problematic as any sustained AF can dilate these thin atrial chambers in few weeks time making  it a sequel to AF rather than a cause to it.

Adding further fuel to the confusion is the  recent man-made (read cardiac scientists!)  problem .Linking the etiology of AF with the presence or absence of valves pathology is definitely not helping us. In the process , we forget a casual fact that valvular AF needs aggressive valvular Intervention and not arrhythmia Intervention !*A patient with dilated cardiomyopathy with mitral regurgitation and LA enlargement with AF is considered non valvular AF in spite of clear pathology in mitral valve apparatus.(Is there myocardial AF by the way ?)

What is the current role for catheter ablation in AF ?

The question of advanced catheter based management boils down to a minority of refractory, fast , troublesome AF which has failed by most available drugs. More Importantly the long-term success of ablation is lowly 20% ( PV reconnection, geographical miss, atrial focus etc) and follow-up medication  is  absolute must even after successful ablation. Its well-known , severe the underlying heart disease more likely is the recurrence .Ironically these are same ones that attract the catheters.

The previous debate of rate control vs rhythm control gave sufficient lessons  that complex modalities to restore sinus rhythm is unwarranted . As scientific  cardiologists we continue to be adamant and don’t learn from our mistakes and blindly adore and adopt technological excessess.

Now, thanks to CABANA* the ablation for AF has proven to be a fruitless  process considering the time ,effort and potential (& real )complications.

*The Catheter Ablation Versus Anti-arrhythmic Drug Therapy for Atrial Fibrillation . Just presented in HRS annual meet at Boston MAy 2018.

The bright spot is even in these commercial medical world the study like CABANA is a silver lining. Mind you it’s partly sponsored by Industry , still went against them. Three cheers to the genuine medical research team of CABANA for bringing out a truth. Now, I am optimistic more such trials in cardiology will be proposed

A companion to CABANA from UK

A 2018 landmark paper from  published in BMJ reveals a dramatic truth that the risk of stroke continues to persist even after resolved Atrial fibrillation,  largely concurring with CABANA.(Nicola J Adderley, Risk of stroke and transient ischaemic attack in patients with a diagnosis of resolved atrial fibrillation: retrospective cohort   studies   BMJ 2018;361:k1717)

So, how to get out of these AF conundrum ?

Practically , an extreme simplification of AF classification is warranted . It should answer these couple of  questions !

1. Will the  AF in a given patient require long-term oral anticoagulants  or not ? (or ok with antiplatelet drug !)

2. Should I make any meaningful attempt to convert the AF to sinus rhythm at all* ?

* You can also redefine the second question , does this AF deserve a EP consult or not ?

Final message

AF is largely a benign arrhythmia in global perspective . However, In those patients were  its troublesome , safe and effective drugs are available to tackle it.We shouldn’t Insist to make it complicated.

Meanwhile . . .the anxious pulmonary veins seems  to enjoy the  moment as they escape from the fire .No wonder they will thank and celebrate the CABANA.



Post-ample and counter point

The RF ablation is a high risk procedure , as we develop less injurious cryo balloons the results of Invasive ablation procedures may score over drugs.Let us wait and don’t prematurely ditch the catheters.



Read Full Post »

It was 1912 , Titanic had just sank off the Atlantic . When the world attention was elsewhere , An unassuming young Dr.Herrick J.B silently working in his Michigan lab inquisitively proposed thrombus occluding the coronary artery is the chief culprit in acute myocardial Infarction.It took seven more decades when Davis et all from Glasgow .UK. proved it by doing dramatic angiographic studies soon after STEMI in year 1979.

Now, even after 100 years , we, the confused cardiologists debate endlessly in glamorous global conclaves in exotic locales whether to aspirate these humble looking thrombus, threatening to damage the myocardium with every passing moment !

Why is this controversy ?

My answer

I am failing to understand the concept and the answer is elusive .While every one agrees that thrombus is true culprit, in bulk of the STEMI , still we are not authorised (In an assertive fashion ) either to lyse as first choice or to aspirate as second choice.

It seems vital, thrombus must be tackled vigorously by any means. Drugs,lytics,(Intravenous or Intra-coronary.) by micro and rheolytic catheters .Only documented, flow limiting complex mechanical lesions must be stented. If we are convinced tackling thrombus by mechanical means is problematic (As studies would suggest ) lysis should prevail over aspiration as a routine measure by default isn’t ?

*It’s a been quite a while , the world cardiology community has made it appear thrombolysing a patient who is otherwise eligible for primary PCI ! a “coronary crime*” Ofcourse , I must say , I proudly commit that crime with rewarding results in many MI patients.

*In fact , I would think not promoting or delaying prompt lysis should qualify for the definition.

In the management of STEMI, prehospital lysis followed by a Intensive care in a good coronary care center is best modality.

This doesn’t mean in-hospital lysis is banished. Yes, STEMI is a cardiac emergency , but triaging STEMI patients must be done by scientific means (STEMI risk score) as well with accumulated wisdom .Rush only true emergencies into cath lab. (A best estimate is about 20 % of all STEMI) If we are not able to decide which STEMI will require prompt PCI , it would Imply we need to go back and do once more the basics postings in coronary care of resident days !

An angry counter from a young Interventionist

Only God can tell whether a given patient with STEMI will (or will not) derive maximum benefit from pPCI. We are not yet trained to make that decision by looking at patient and his ECG.So my logic is all STEMIs are equal. I will continue to do emergency angioplasty in all STEMI patients . I expect them blindly to accept all the potential complications arising out of poking the thrombotic milieu in those low risk patients who might have done well with thrombolysis.

Never afraid of challenges. It is like going to war. Casualties are bound to happen.We have enough technology , Imaging , expertise, to tackle all those complex lesions we encounter during primary PCI especially in elderly comorbid patients. We can even do a triple vessel angioplasty , left main etc. Only Yesterday I posted in my nonstop whatsapp group , where I did a dramatic acute angled bifurcation angioplasty for a stable STEMI patient that required a iFR guided jailed side branch assessment and 3d OCT transmitting stunning snaps of fresh thrombus, ending with a semi culotte procedure.The patient is doing well with a Impella 2.5 device and a high frequency ventilator support and my anesthetist has promised me to wean him soon ! I must actually thank his Glo-Health plus Insurance company for clearing the procedure.

An Important tip for complex lesions during STEMI

We need to know there is always a saving grace , if for some reason we couldn’t accomplish PCI due to complexities of the lesion with multiple IRA mimickers. We can always sheepishly thrombolyse these patients inside cath lab . . . a modality just few minutes ago would have been ridiculed with all our vigor to convince the anxious family for a costly Invasive procedure !


3. Herrick Original paper . https://jamanetwork.com/

Read Full Post »

Hyperlipidimia is one of the well-known coronary  risk factor.Serum cholesterol ( Various fractions ) levels are measured to represent that risk. Epidemiologically ,it does a perfect job , however , the fact is , circulating lipids has little correlation with the lipids that’s deposited in the vessel wall.

Time and again , we have proven this as severity of CAD has little  to do with the absolute levels of lipid levels.The number  volume of plaques , the thickness of lipid core, and degree of vulnerability  show  poor correlation with circulating lipid levels than  what we would expect.It tempts us to make a statement , that serum lipid is a poor surrogate marker for CAD. (Still, it may predict the risk of developing it !)

Why this paradox ? What are the  missing links and hidden secrets ?

If you plot a simple graph with serum lipids with  plaque mass, volume and content in CAD population , we might get an  answer .I don’t know whether such a study exist. (Those who find one , please share)

A new concept called cholesterol crystalisation 

It’s not the lipids alone that are responsible for CAD . There is a whole lot of factors , circulating  pro inflammatory  mediators, altered blood coagulation system  , various  inflammatory molecules, , heightened  intra-coronary pressures, genetic vulnerabilities .

Most importantly ,the format  of lipid molecule in side  the plaque seems to matter more  rather the  absolute content.(Small dense LDL, oxidised lipids,Lipid fed macrophages etc )

There is lesser reported phenomenon  called cholesterol crystalisation , with sharp edges (Lipid knife ?) that are responsible random episodes  plaque fissure and rupture.

It was reported in  one of the  rare research paper that came from  (Abela Am J Cardiol.2009)  Factors that crysalise cholesterol include local saturation,  PH, temperature , hydration and plaque RBC contact.

If you argue lipid levels are not  correlating with CAD , how is that reducing it with statins dramatically reduce  CAD and the events ?

Like blood pressure the normality of serum lipids itself is not defined.One insightful definition was proposed , that the level at which a person develops CAD is high for that patient however low it may be..A person who develops extensive CAD  say at a level of  90mgLDL what to infer ? We do not know exact  answer.

That’s why the  concept of satin for all with clinical CAD looked attractive. Still , statin’s action doesn’t help  answer the original query about the relationship between blood lipids and plaque lipids.

Statins beneficial effect is not by reduction of serum cholesterol.It primary acts by  regressing intra-plaque lipids by blocking synthesis of lipids in every cell.The anti inflammatory,plaque stabilisation action of  statin may be  independent of lipid reduction.How much it contributes to overall benefits is not known.

The mystery will deepen

Not every LDL is bad.(I will be slapped if I call them Good LDL !) Small dense LDL , LDL P (Particle) ApoB (The real culprit on which LDL piggybacks ) lipoprotein little a and so many other lipid sub particles are being studied.

Final message

The purpose of this post is not to confuse our understanding about coronary  lipidology but to widen our vision . Serum lipids remain a poor surrogate marker for plaque lipids. This is because , It’s rather a small fraction of sample volume we catch in the  circulating blood , while loads of lipids gets deposited elsewhere in the body ! This also make it clear,no single risk factor in isolation is really CAD risky.It is the combination of risks , genetic susceptibility , LDL subfractions, few unknown risk/protective factors and finally a mandatory trigger(Hemodynamic, Emotional ?) that determine the outcome of  CAD.

So ladies and gentle men , just don’t over react to mildly abnormal lipid levels you often find in  master health checks .There is much more untold stories behind the true CAD risk than the glossy lab printouts would suggest !



3.The Role of Lipids and Lipoproteins in Atherosclerosis MacRae F Linton, MD, Patricia G Yancey, 

Read Full Post »