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Archive for the ‘Cardiology – Clinical’ Category

Not every one feels the palpitation during tachycardia / Bradycardia /VPDs , Why ?

Palpitation is awareness of one’s own heart beat. It is a complex perception of sensation at cortical level (like dyspnea) . It can occur during physical and mental exertion.However , if it occurs without any physiological reasons , it becomes abnormal. It can mean an abnormality  in heart rate , rhythm or  raise in stroke volume. The first rule of palpitation is both tachycardia and bradycardia can cause it. Tachycardic palpitation is due to valve motion and bradycardic palpitation is due to both motion and increased stroke volume.

The most common mechanism proposed for palpitation is hyperactive anterior mitral leaflet

How and where  does the sensation of  palpitation felt ?

Does  it originate in  the chest wall ?  or Is it the vibrations spreading along  the flow of blood in great vessels ?  or Simply  represent  the vigorous valve motion  sensed by Intra cardiac receptors ? How it is  transmitted to spinal cord where it’s felt at cortical level  ? We are not clear yet. Paccinian corpuscles is thought to sense these vibrations and hand over as electrical signals  to spinal cord either directly from cardiac valves /walls or indirectly from chest wall.

Paccinian corpuscles are predominantly present in sensory nerve fibres located in the dermis of skin. It is also observed in nerve ending to joints, Chestwall, blood vessel and also heart .They act like pressure as well as vibratory receptors * The exact reference for Paccinian corpuscle to be present within the heart is not available to me. Readers may contribute,

Importance of age and gender and IQ

Palpitation is primarily a symptom of young age where the heart is supple and more dynamic. Women tend to perceive more for some unknown reason. Elderly people rarely complaint about palpitation .It could imply aging  with or with out autonomic dysfunction which suppresses transmission of palpitation signals to brain.Chest wall thickness also matters. My guess would be, Chest wall thickness, epicardial fat pad could absorb the vibratory  energy  and chest wall receptors fail to recognise it. One curious observation is,  palpitation is described in a succinct manner by certain patients only. Since , it essentially involves  higher cortical senses , we believe spatial intelligence of the patient  may also be important.

Why Irregularity in heart beat is well recognized?

For the given heart rate , irregular rhythms are felt  more often as palpitation than sinus tachycardia. This is the reason single ectopic beat is easily felt than  sustained tachycardia. A common sequence of  palpitation due to ectopic beat is , a suddenly  missed beat, subsequent pause and forceful post ectopic beat.

Valve morphology and impact on palpitation

Mitral stenosis patients can feel their loud first heat sound (S 1)  or varying  S1 during atrial fibrillation as palpitation; Mitral valve prolapse with redundant , hyper kinetic motion is probably most common cause of benign palpitation.

Sclerosed  and calcific  valves attenuates palpitation. Calcific mitral valve in mitral stenosis make both S 1 intensity and opening snap feeble .These patients are less likely to feel palpitation .

Individual valve pathology can generate palpitation as in Ebstein anomaly , which has a the large sail like septal leaflet that flutters to create palpitation(Apart form pre-excitation syndrome common in this condition) As a general rule ,It is possible semi lunar valves are less likely to cause palpitation than AV valves as the latter only exposed to direct contractile pressure of ventricle.

Right vs left heart origin and localised palpitation

I am not sure one can differentiate left heart from right palpitation. But.palpitation arising from right ventricular  volume overload and increased pulmonary flow like in ASD  are associated with direct local sensation over pericardium . Mitral valve motion can not be localized by  patients .However apical impulse can be felt.Neck pulsations invariably mean high flow states. Venous cannon waves due to high pressure tricuspid regurgitation can be felt with each heart beat (RV systole)

Exertional vs Non exertional palpitation 

Palpitation occurring during exertion often imply its due to excessive handling stroke volume or (Pathological regurgitant volumes) Stenotic lesions are less likely to cause palpitation during exertion it’s never an absolute rule. Exercise Induced arrhythmia always happen in any valve lesions.

Relation with LV function

A dysfunctional ventricle cannot  generate forceful contraction and hence palpitation is uncommon symptom. Cardiomyopathy presents with more of dyspnea rather than palpitation .Even,  an episode of AF do not cause palpitation in such patients .They simply feel breathless (Dyspnea ? Or is it a palpitation equivalent ?)

New age palpitation

With so many foreign bodies and accessories entering the heart  it’s not surprising for patients to feel amusing sounds and vibrations hitherto unknown in human body.

  • Prosthetic valve clicks (Sounds from mechanical valves can be  annoying .Tissue valves, TAVR are more quiet)
  • Abnormal electrical activity  from pacemakers and ICD coils.(Apart form pacemaker mediated muscle twitches)
  • Now, we have entire mechanical LV assist devices  working inside the heart with a 24/7 motors .(LVAD hum its called) Very soon heart is going to become a noisy place and patients would learn to ignore these abnormal sounds

Pleasant physiological palpitation

What brings the unpleasantness during palpitation? (applies to dyspnea as well). It is purely state of mind. While, palpitation due to extreme fear is unpleasant , palpitation due to pleasant emotional arousal (Often referred to as flying butterflies ! (Is it the wings of AML ? ) within the chest  as we hear from some of young  women & men ).Since they know the reason why they get it, cortical input welcomes it ,converts them to pleasant  beats .The Non-academic stuff  is intentionally made to understand how the limbic system and Hipocampus  areas of brain can modify the incoming signals of palpitation that comes from down under.

Thoughts to ponder 

Does post heart transplantation (De-nerved heart) patients experience palpitation ? Again, I am not sure .If palpitation is carried by cardiac nerves it should disappear. Of-course , 30 % of transplanted heart do get re-innervated. When you get a chance to meet a heart transplant patient you ask yourself and find the answer.

*Please be reminded Anginal pain almost vanishes  post transplant.In fact ,there have been instances of cardiac auto-transplant for refractory angina in the past.

Final message

Though all of us can list causes of palpitation without any difficulty , we rarely dwell into exact  the mechanism of genesis of this symptom and  its perception. As we enjoy flying in an exotic world of cardiac  interventions  . . .  the principles of  practice of medicine also expect us to take adequate efforts to understand fully the cardinal  symptoms of our patients . After all , they are the true teachers of Medicine. It is because of their pursuit for explanation for their symptom (Often vague though)  we make our professional progress.

Further  reading

John T.Shepard  The Heart as a Sensory Organ JACC Vol. 5, No.6  June 1985:83B-878

(The heart has variety of sensory nerve endings , still to be explored)

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We know pleural effusion (hydrothorax) is disproportionately more common on right side in cardiac failure.Though its a well observed phenomenon, the mechanism of which  has not been clear to us. It could be due to multiple  anatomical , physiological factors.

 

*The are  right and left lymphatic (Thoracic) ducts that drain the corresponding lungs and pleural space . There can be overlap and contribute to the differential occurrence of pleural effusion

 

Reference 

A meticulous paper written some 75 years ago (1946) from Harvard medical school teach us some important points in this phenomenon.

There is still lot, to be understood about pleural effusion in cardiac failure. We need to know why some pleural effusions tend to occur independent of hydrostatic forces.  It is also noted long-standing transudative effusions can become true exudates. Role of local pleural capillary hypoxia resulting increasing permeability is underestimated.Hepatic congestion and trans-abdominal seepage of fluid is a distinct possibility.

One more area we are not clear is  the relationship  between the  genesis of  pericardial effusion in cardiac failure and concomitant pleural effusion. Post operatively , after univentricular repair (as in Fontan ), pleural effusions can be much problematic with high venous pressure interfering with  pleural drainage.

Impact on symptoms

Finally, even mild pleural effusion can increase the work of breathing and result in dyspnea which is out of proportion to cardiac dysfunction.While we expect the diurteics to clear the effusion of cardiac failure, it doesn’t happen always arguing for a non transudative mechanism in at least some of them.

Further reading

Discerned readers are advised to study the pleural space dynamics in detail.

Link to the original Article of Edgar Mcpeak and Levine 1946

 

 

 

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Reading X -ray chest can be as blind as a bat flying in the dark . It needs lots of Imagination . (Many times the blindness continues to cath lab as well  during structural interventions is a different story !)

Yes ,its true  any one can recognise a cardiomegaly in X-ray  . . . but  Which chamber is responsible for cardiomegaly ? and quantifying each ones contribution to the increased CTR is the critical question. 

We know the 4 chambers in the heart are arranged in a complex pre-specified  (Antero -superior and right to left orientation ) still , the CT ratio in X-RAY chest is based on the diameter formed by two chambers only ie right atrium and left ventricle.

However, any of the 4  chamber enlargement can increase  CT ratio in pathological conditions.

  • LV enlargement is the most common cause for cardiomegaly as it is the normally  border forming.(DCM, Aortic valve, HT diseases)
  • RV can do it when it enlarger grossly forming the left heart border(COPD, Severe pulmonary hypertension of any cause)
  • RA can enlarge to both pressure and volume overload.(CHF, with RVF)
  • LA is least likely to be border forming as it is midline structure .Since It tends to enlarge posteriorly and superiorly it rarely enlarges sideways. Occasionally In severe mitral stenosis it can enlarge to the right and cross the right heart border causing the classical shadow in shadow.

Since I have struggled with X ray orientation of heart chambers in my early days (Still i do sometimes!) Just thought , why we are not fusing a X-ray with a given patients echocardiogram that will help understand the chamber anatomy .

Fusion Image of X ray chest PA view with apical 4 chamber in ECHO. (Rotated to specified angle to match heart border)

Note : The Left atrium is not only left of RA , its also posterior and superior to RA.This makes the IAS  not actually  pure right left to relationship but also a slight  infero to superior and antero posterior  orientation.(This can be realised when we puncture the IAS from RA side the needle goes more of superior)

X ray chest left lateral view is  fused with para- sternal long axis view. Please note this is not true anatomical correlates. The RV shown in echo is actually RVOT but in X-ray its more of RV body .

* A note of caution : The fused Images are rough attempt to co-register x-ray with echo. There is sophisticated software in some new generation cath labs to mix fluro images with live TEE data that aid in Interventions.

Postample
A bedside Instant point of care echo is becoming a norm in clinical cardiology practice. Why bother about  X-ray then ? Agreed to that point to a certain extent. But, I used to tell my (amused ) students that technology based lazy learning doesn’t help build a strong scientific  foundation which would ultimately threaten the patient care one day !

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Heart is not like a rigid structure built with  bricks . . . . so , its too architectural mindset to describe cardiac chambers to be made up of walls. Rather , Its a four chambered muscle mass moulded together in a complex 3D interface with distinct surfaces rather than walls. It’s also important to realise, since the heart is positioned (rather hanging )delicately in the middle mediastinum resting on the diaphragm , its subjected to one more dynamism due to respiratory motion blurring the definition of surfaces as well. (Vertical vs Horizontal)

4415_21_26-heart-human-posteriorly

Posterior surface is now referred to as infero-posterior

The posterior aspect of heart contains essentially the venous channels and the atrium (LA in particular)pulmonary veins and coronary sinus.  This happens right from 8 week heart open stage when venous end of lower straight heart tube folds up and posteriorly .

cardaic-looping-posterior-wall

It should be recalled only a small portion of lower aspect of posterior wall is alloted to left ventrilce.Instead the Infero diaphragmatic surface is formed by two-thirds  the LV and one-third Right ventricle.

anatomy-of-heart-posterior-wall-mi-lcx-rca-grays-grants-anatomy-netter

Image courtesy : From the great Netter

Nomenclature  issue 

The term posterior wall is now abandoned in most Echocardiography texts its replaced by inferior .The implication is more for Electrophysiologists with reference to accessory pathway localization

What is true posterior wall MI ?

As discussed before ,posterior surface of heart is different from posterior aspect of left and and right ventricle.

What does leads V7 V8 V9 record ?

It actually records electrical signals arising from posterior  aspect  of heart.  Left atrium,  pulmonary vein along with insulatory  effect of lungs dampens the potential . This makes the sensitivity of ST elevation  in posterior MI is low.

Blood supply of posterior surface

It’s highly variable.Both RCA and LCX arteries contribute with its  posterior left ventricular branches (PLV)

It can be inferred , LCX has more territorial rights than RCA in this unique zone of heart as the artery covers more posterior areas.

Read a related article

Back pain from anterior MI : Is it possible ?

 

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Syncope and seizure are most dramatic symptoms that rarely fails to call the attention of the patient and family.Syncope is primarily evaluated at medical or cardiac units. However ,when syncope presents as convulsions (often It is ! ) the patient lands up in a Neuro unit as a case of epilepsy.Some how, many of them are prescribed anti convulsants without being evaluated for what triggered the seizure.

heart_and_mind

Cardiac seizure and Neural syncope : Require a balanced approach ! (Image courtesy http://3.bp.blogspot.com)

Real life experience now suggest, a bothering  number of patients in epilepsy clinic might harbor a primary cardiac disorder in the form of either brady or tachycardia which is often inherited due to defect in ion channels of cardiac cell.

The issue is two fold. 

  • Cardiac patients mis-diagnosed as seizure
  • Primary seizure patients suffer a cardiac death (as seizure induced arrhymias or acute pulmonary edema )

Incidence of sudden cardiac death in patients with seizure disorder though rare is being increasingly recognised. Mechanical problems like valvular Aortic stenosis can also result in syncope followed by seizure.

Final message

Cardiologists do have a major role these situations.It may be wise to advice basic cardiac work up in  every seizure disorder.  As we are beginning to understand the neurogenic triggers in sudden cardiac deaths , the need for Neuro-Cardiac units is real.(Some of big university hospitals do have such departments)

Reference 

1.Zaidi A1, Clough P, Cooper P, Misdiagnosis of epilepsy: many seizure-like attacks have a cardiovascular cause. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2000 Jul;36(1):181-4.

2.Leestma JE, Annegers JF, Brodie MJ, Brown S, Schraeder P, Siscovick D, et al. Sudden unexplained death in epilepsy: observations from a large clinical development program. Epilepsia. 1997 Jan. 38(1):47-55.

3.Kloster R, Engelskjøn T. Sudden unexpected death in epilepsy (SUDEP): a clinical perspective and a search for risk factors. J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry. 1999 Oct. 67(4):439-44

4.Leestma JE1, Walczak T, Hughes JR, K A prospective study on sudden unexpected death in epilepsy.Ann Neurol. 1989 Aug;26(2):195-203.

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effect of inspiration on jvp and bp pulsus paradoxus bernhiem effect ventricular interdependence

Image  modified  from  http://www.anatomygallery.info

That’s  normal . . . what happens during pathological states ?

There are important diseases  that  restricts entry of blood into right heart chambers. They can occur either in an acute  (Tamponade) or in chronic  fashion like constrictive pericarditis  and restrictive cardiomyopathy.These entities  show distinctive impact on JVP and systemic pulse.

The two pathognomonic signs are Kussmaul sign and pulsus paradoxus* that go hand in hand in most  situations.Inappropriate elevation of JVP with inspiration is termed as Kussmaul sign , while exaggerated fall in systemic BP with inspiration is called Pulsus paradoxus.The later is the  arterial counter part of  Kussmaul sign in JVP .However, there can be dissociation between these two signs occasionally.

* Pulsus paradoxus is a term originally  used by Kussmaul when he noted heart sounds were  retained while pulse dissappeared  in  patients with cardiac  tamponade .Later we realised the loss of pulse was linked to inspiratory cycle  of respiration. To make  this sign objective  sphygmomanometery  criteria was formulated which measured the difference between inspiratory  and expiratory korotkoff’s  sounds .

Coming up next 

Why Kussmaul sign  is often absent in Tamponade while  its arterial counterpart pulsus  paradoxus may still be conspicuous ?

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We know aortic regurgitation causes  a deluge of   hugely popular peripheral signs of aortic run off  , which are taught  right from 2nd year medical school.

aortic runoof

When the aorta  leaks it reflects in the entire vascular tree .How is that a  leak in the remote aortic valve cause a quincke’s to and fro pulsations in the finger pulp ?

aortic-insufficiency

Is the blood in the finger  trying to follow  the regurgitant  jet  that  go back into left ventricle ? Does the to and fro murmur of  Duroziez over the  femoral artery imply  there is reversal of  blood flow in femoral artery ?

Things are  little complex than it appears

It is true the initiating event of collapsing pulse is the regurgitant jet , however the mechanism that amplifies and sustains it , lies in the altered peripheral hemodynamics.

The systemic arteriolar resistance is  dramatically low in chronic  severe AR  by a reflex phenomenon ,  as cardiac out put is increased and vascular tree adopt to it. So, with each  beat when blood is ejected two things happen in diastole .While a small fraction runs back into LV , the rest of  blood runs off , as if it goes in a free way  making all peripheral pulses dynamic , bounding and collapsible.

Hence as the name suggest all the peripheral signs of AR  are due to the peripheral mechanisms rather than primary event of aortic run off  into left ventricle.

Why carotid pulse does not show the collapsible nature of  pulse in AR  ?

If aortic leak into LV  is the dominant mechanism ,  carotid  artery should obviously manifest a collapse ,but it doesn’t  ,as carotid has no direct continuity with the  peripheral low resistance circuit

What is the hemo-dynamic  correlates of    descending  aortic flow reversal  in  severe AR ?

The central vascular tree  manifest  some  reversal till the regurgitant  velocity fades off . This can occur in severe AR, extending into certain length of aorta. This can be picked up by Doppler probe. Please realise  it is only  the wave form that get reversed  not the actual blood stream.( The momentum gained in systole  continues to push forward in-spite of the pulling back forces of regurgitation)

Why peripheral signs are  absent in acute AR ?

Acute AR even if it’s  significant does not cause a collapsing  pulse because it takes time for the peripheral vascular tree to go for vasodilatory mode.Further ,LV is also less compliant keeping the LVEDP high and regurgitant fraction low.

Summary

Answering  the title question ,the mechanism of  Aortic run off  in AR is both central and peripheral.  However  clinical  signs are largely due to high cardiac out put and the resultant   adaptive  response  of the  vascular tree due to low  systemic   vascular  resistance  triggered by  reflex  dilatation of small arterioles of the  peripheral vascular bed.

 

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