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Archive for the ‘Clinical cardiology’ 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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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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When a patient comes with angina at rest , it could mean two things .Either a  STEMI or an NSTEMI .This , we can diagnose only after seeing the ECG .

Can we differentiate these two by the  character of chest pain alone ?

Very  tough task isn’t  ? But there are some definite clues .

Infarct  pain

  • Is mostly sudden .
  • Likely to be crescendo , lasts more than 20-30 minutes .
  • Fails to get relived by rest or even  Nitrites.
  • Sweating due to sympathetic activation is more pronounced.

Unstable angina

  • Is rarely  sudden .Often has a pro-drome.
  • UA is  mostly precipitated by an increased demand situation or a stress.
  • It has  a typical waxing and waning  pattern . Rarely assume a true  crescendo character  as myocytes  does not necrose (Just threaten to die !)
  • The chest pain radiation   to  shoulder is less  conspicuous , instead it  tends to  reach  the  jaw area .(* An observation,Is it something to do with multi-vessel CAD in UA ?)

Mechanism of the difference : Epicardial vs Endocardial angina

The pain of UA is   due to subtotal occlusion and  endocardial ischemia , while STEMI is  sudden total occlusion  and the resultant  transmural  ischemia . In STEMI  epicardial  surface is always involved (Which lifts the ST segment in ECG .).We know epicardium  is same as  visceral layer of pericardium which is well innervated .Hence  pain  of STEMI   acquires  more of somatic character  than a  predominately visceral type pain  that occurs with  UA/NSTEMI where epicardial ischemia is absent.

Clinical importance

The demarcation between unstable angina and Infarct pain becomes vital when we calculate the time window for thrombolysing STEMI .Many of them have a phase of pre infarction angina which is a type of unstable angina. If we mistake it for Infarct pain then one may falsely calculate a prolonged time window and deny re-perfusion therapy.

Post -amble

It is tricky issue  to differentiate the  chest pain of  STEMI and NSTEMI  .A significant overlap can occur  in  real coronary care scenario . We know   chest pain  that occurs in both   pre and post infarct  phase  is considered  as unstable angina .(With infarct pain sandwiched between them!) Hence differentiating  them may even be termed as futile.

Still,clinical cardiology  can be  made  fascinating by indulging in such exercise !

 

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This  query often  evokes  confusion  among fellows and General physicians .

              The answer is simple .Yes ,  you can.(With few conditions)

  • Thrombolysis  or PCI  is  done  with reference to  the  presence  or absence of ST elevation and chest pain.
  • If there is ongoing chest pain  and  significant new onset ST elevation  thrombolysis or PCI is indicated whether there is associated q  waves or not.

Clinical situations 

 Ischemic  q waves: Q wave can occur  with transmural ischemia which result in electrical stunning and loss of R waves . (Many of them  regenerate this R within few days after STEMI ,  indicating the q  waves can be  ischemic  in origin)

Reinfarction : Patients with  old  MI can develop fresh ST elevation  in q leads due to tachycardia and dyskinetic infarct segment .This group  of patients  should be carefully evaluated before labeling them as  re-infarction

* q RBBB in early hours of  anterior STEMI is fairly common which  may revert later. qRBBB is not a contraindication for re-perfusion .

Final  message

Presence of q waves does not  imply one should not  entertain  thrombolysis or PCI .The decision  to reperfuse  , rather  goes with  presence of  chest pain , ST elevation and  of course  within the  acceptable   time window!

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Can we close an  ASD in a  25 year old women  severe  pulmonary hypertension ?
Volumes of literature has been written  on the subject.Dedicated cath studies  have been done with multiple parameters .
Still , there is a lingering doubt !
Here is  a  3 minute  practical solution  based on 5 easily available parameters. (* Also referred to as  unscientific  in medical parlance !)
1.  O2 saturation
2. Pulmonary artery diastolic and pulse pressure
3. RV function,
4 .Systemic pressure
5. Functional class
  • If O2 saturation is > 90 % consistently  there is likely to be significant  left to right shunt  .Closure is to strongly considered
  • If 02  saturation is near 95 % there is absolutely no contraindication at any level of PVR.
  • Systolic pulmonary artery pressure derived by TR jet is least useful index.Pulmonary artery diastolic pressure reflects true vascular  reactivity of the pulmonary  circulation.A wide swinging pulmonary arterial pulse indicates dynamism in circulation and hence operablity.
  • If pulmonary artery  pulse pressure is  wide (>50)  , or PA diastolic BP is < 30 one can safely presume irreversible damage to pulmonary vasculature has not occurred and these patients would  benefit  from surgical closure .
  • RV  function should be assessed carefully in every patient.This is as important as PVR .Significant RV dysfunction is an absolute contraindication.
  • Never close the shunt in patients who is in class 4  symptoms.
  • Never close a shunt if the systemic blood pressure is low( 90mmhg)
  • Some believe  PDA may be closed at any given PVR , while  worst outcomes occur with ASD as supra-systemic pulmonary pressure is possible.
Always monitor these patients meticulously especially  in the initial days following surgery  for deterioration .Most patients will do well if they cross the first 30 days. The RV  learns to adopts with  new  pulmonary hemodynamics !

 

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