Archive for the ‘Cardiology -guidelines’ Category

I share my thoughts after going through this  85 page  land mark document !

acc aha 2013 guidelines cholesterol ncep

In whatever way I look at it  ,It  keeps  both physicians and their patient population guessing  in a  confused sate regarding their cholesterol levels  the treatment modalities !

It seems to revolve around a single point agenda,  how to fit a single drug called statin in the scheme of things !

What  if  ,  a new  drug comes and statin is  proved  not an angel  in our fight against the evil  of  atheroscerosis !


acc aha lipid guidelines atp 3 ncep  nhlbi dyslipidemia

Summary as  I interpreted

“All healthy and unhealthy human beings should ask only one  question

whether they can some how  benefit from taking statins  ? “

If your answer is yes ,  administer the statin  not in  low dose but in moderately high dose ! (It  appears  there is little role for low intensity statins )

There  is generally no  need to to monitor the lipid levels as long as patient is comfortable.

Disclaimer :  *Sorry , the Intention is not to  hurt the hard work of a elite panel who toiled for years to bring this much awaited guidelines on lipids and atherosclerosis! but to express my view , biased though !)

A mini research

To confirm my assumption I did a curious word search in this 85  page document .

For words statin , diet and exercise

  1. Statin appeared  814 times
  2. Diet appeared 8 times
  3. and exercise just once in the entire document !

statin search acc document statin acc aha 2013 guidelines statin acc aha 2013 guidelines 2

The importance of  diet and  body activity  which  are  the  primary   determinant of serum lipid levels is mentioned  in a cursory fashion in this  global guideline meant to control the total  cholesterol load  and atherosclerosis of our population .

Meanwhile . a drug which  acts in a  physiological  cell servicing  metabolic path way in a complex fashion  is glorified 814  times !Do  you still  think this post is is biased ?



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CHB with CAD is a  common combination especially in the elderly.

Which will you Intervene first ?  Is the AV block related to CAD  ?

How to differentiate Ischemic from degenerative AV block ?

Differentiating is often difficult.Even coronary angiogram may not answer the query unless it is totally normal . For AV block to occur usually  LCX / RCA lesion is required.  LAD lesion in isolation are rare to cause CHB .

How often re-vascularisation  reverses  ischemic CHB ?

Logically  you expect more reversals.In real world it rarely happens.

Therapeutic options in combined CAD and CHB

  1. PCI and pace maker in the same sitting .
  2. PCI first followed by pace-maker at a later date.
  3. Pace maker first followed by PCI at a later date if required.
  4. CABG  and epicardial pacemaker ( best option In all critical TVD and CHB)
  5. Pace maker followed by CABG later
  6. Pacemaker followed by medical management (CHB with Insignificant CAD)

Can worsening of ischemia  occur after pacemaker  ?

Very much possible . Since the patient  has been benefited by low heart rate in terms of MVO2 consumption .(Inserting a pacemaker  is  like sudden withdrawal of beta blocker !)

Rate adoptive pacing can confer chronotropic competence which  may bring back the angina.So,what was a insignificant lesion  can become hemodynamicaly relevant  and  may require  angioplasty  later.

*The above clinical issue is applicable  for sinus node dysfunction and CAD as well.

Final message

There is no  fixed rule in the management strategy in combined  CHB and CAD .

Generally , electrical  therapy  should be given preference .Symptom guided approach  may be practical.

In this scientific era , one may argue to deal both issues  together by simultaneous  PCI and pacemaker ,  still  option 3 and 6  remain clear  favorites !

If angina  occurs  even in  baseline bradycardia  it is obvious the obstructive CAD  is  significant and needs immediate fixing .

Finally , though it looks an attractive  concept , It is very rare for CHB  to get reverted by PCI or CABG.





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Recently , I came across a   young women  who underwent the following three tests for one episode of syncope after witnessing her pet dog bleeding with  an Injury !

  1. Carotid doppler
  2. Holter monitoring and event monitors
  3. Brain MRI /MR angiogram

This was followed up  by Head up tilt(HUT)  in a premier hospital

After 1 week of investigation ,a diagnosis of  Neurocardiogenic syncope was made and she was reassured and no drugs were prescribed.

(The collective yield of the above three investigation in fixing  a specific diagnosis is  less than 10 % of all known causes of syncope )

Syncope  approach  evaluation

To diagnose  common syncope . . . we need common sense !

Syncope is a dramatic  symptom.It is one of the commonest symptom in ER as well . Life time incidence of syncope is at least one episode in 50% all human life ! The definition  of syncope until recently , was liberal .Any transient loss of consciousness with spontaneous recovery  was termed syncope.

This includes

  1. Hypoglycemia
  2. Anemia
  3. Siezure disorders
  4. Structural  neurogenic (Including ,  brain tumors , Dural hematomas etc )
  5. Panic attacks (psychogenic)

Cardiologists wanted to fix syncope as an exclusive disorder of  circulatory insufficiency.By bringing in a modification in the definition  , ie  syncope is  now defined as a transient loss of consciousness due to   reduction in cerebral perfusion  .

This definition helped cardiologists  to exclude the above entities . Still many would include all in single basket as patient should be seen as a whole and we can’t expect them to  land according to our convenience and classification.

Here is an incomplete* list about causes of  syncope (* 99% complete ?)


  • Vaso- vagal syncope in young ( Neuro-cardiogenic , Common , Benign)
  • Autonomic dysfunction of elderly ( Including postural hypotension )


Arrhythmic ( Sinus node dysfunction /CHB/Idiopathic VT/Long QT syndromes)

Structural heart disease

  • Valvular  heart disease  (LVOT/RVOT obstructions)
  • Myocardial disease
  • Rarely ischemic heart disease


  • Severe pulmonary hypertension (Including PPH ,  pulmonary Embolism )
  • Paradoxical embolism.
  • Aortic arch disease -Takayasu related arteritis .


We have a sophisticated array  of investigation for syncope .It can be a never ending exercise , ranging from  spinal cord evoked potentials to diagnose Shy-drager syndrome ,   . . .  to implanting long-term loop recorders to decode  heart beat behavior.

However , evaluation of syncope is the ultimate wake-up call  to all current generation cardiologists  . . . Why clinical cardiology  should  never  be allowed to die (and  it  will not ! )

Common sense begins with answering  few simple questions . Is it really syncope ?

If  you ask this question three times and with  specific leads to the patient  and the witness ,  truth will come out  . 90% of times it may not be syncope at all (Near syncope, accidental  fall, dizziness ,extreme blurred vision, drowsiness  etc)

If it is syncope , Is there a non cardiac cause ?

It may related to the Hypoglycemia / Anemia /Panic attacks.Get a neurologist opinion , it would be terrible mistake if you miss a space occupying lesion  within the brain. (Missing chronic silent sub dural hematomas is  frequent   in the evaluation of syncope of elderly !)

Ruling out  cardiac syncope is relatively easy

In the remaining  patients  basic investigation like routine blood tests,ECG, ECHO   will help us  rule out most serious cardiac disorders.Similarly  bulk of the electrical cardiac syncope can be diagnosed.(Holter , carotid study in selected few )

Need for neurologist -cardiologist interaction.

Syncope due to VBI,  transient Ischemia attack , Senile vascular dementia  is a grey zone . Many have complex neuronal -vascular mechanisms . What is Consciousness ?  and  What is LOC ?  :Is it the lack of blood or severely depressed nerve signal in the reticular activating system? Lots of interaction between cardiologist and neurologist is required to clear our ignorance.(I  have one such  elderly patient who is intermittently awake ! I call this chronic syncope !)  .

Undiagnosed syncope is not  a crime

Realise the most important lesson in Medicine . If you  have ruled out all serious  causes of syncope you should have the courage to be satisfied with that !

Scientific pursuits has a limit. Searching for the mechanism of a psychogenic  fainting attacks with intra cerebral electrodes is a clear case of  physician acquiring a psychotic  behavior !

Final message

Syncope is not only a dramatic symptom for the patient , it also unfolds a drama of costly  investigations  . .  . many  with  dubious value.

Talk to the patient personally for  10 minutes in a quiet room, try to apply that elusive  clinical sense  . . .   it would rarely let you down !

After thought

What is the true clinical value of * Head up tilt Test (HUT)?

Will be posted soon

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Oral anticoagulant usage has been steadily increasing for variety of  indications.Dengue fever is also  appearing in different avatars with  low platelet counts  and bleeding being a primary risk.

I was recently contacted by a physician , regarding a therapeutic dilemma .A young lady with mitral prosthetic valve and a febrile illness diagnosed as dengue . She has a platelet  count of 100,000 .She is on regular warfarin and aspirin .The physician  wanted to know , should he stop the OAC and aspirin ?

What are the options ?

  • Confirm if it is really dengue.
  • Look for clinical bleeding.INR, platelet function tests are not helpful.
  • Continue OAC.You can do that in most situations.
  • Stop OAC only if there is clinical bleeding  episode.
  • Anti-platelet drug usage  is more tricky .One may stop it if the trend of falling platelet is steep by at least two serial measurement.(or 50% fall from baseline)
  • Fresh blood and platelet infusions should be ready .
  • Finally and most importantly , Inform the patient and family about the difficult decision we are making.

*Is  OAC  safer than aspirin and clopidogrel in dengue ?

It is believed OAC has no major  Impact on platelet function .It may not  pose a threat of excess bleeding in the setting of  falling platelet levels .(*Evidence base -nil )

Another potential situation : DES and dengue

The number of DES in developing countries are increasing  where Dengue is endemic . It is not a surprising  to expect  both to  occur together.

Anti-platelet agents  can be problematic .It is better to withhold it during the active phase of dengue.(If the  stent has recently  been deployed you have no option !)

Final message

1.  Prosthetic valve , Warfarin Dengue .

2. DES, Dual antiplatelet agents ,Dengue.

They  extraordinary events  throw a complex therapeutic task .There are only two options .Continue or discontinue ! Whichever way you do , you explain to your clients (patients!)  the (un)reality games we play.

My personal option would be , with hold all hematological drugs during the active phase of dengue .

It is better to believe in the  natural thrombus fighting force . Leave the job of anti-platelet action  to the dengue virus for a week or two and give oral anticoagulants and dual anti-platelet agents a holiday

It may be foolish to rely on the dengue virus to guard against  prosthetic  valve  and DES thrombus , In reality we have to do that !


No reference exists.It is a statistical mind game.Individual assessment  should prevail. Either way, if something adverse happens court of law should protect us !

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Time is muscle. This quote  became  sort of ” cardiology sermon”  in the last  few decades .Cardiologist think  they stand  on a 100 meters sprint track once a patient with STEMI arrives .This is indeed true ,  if we  agree  time is  muscle and  our urge is to reduce the door to balloon time .Please  remember ,  this rush matters  much ,  only if the patient comes through very early  when the muscle is really getting damaged . (No issues  . . . even if the fire engine comes in  slow motion if the  house is burnt fully !)

Time is muscle agreed  . . .  but  muscles are  kept alive by  factors other than time  !  So muscles can  defy time if God  is willing !

Time is one of the important components of management of STEMI.  Other things matter too !  Age , baseline co-morbidity ,  underlying extent of CAD, collateral support of IRA territory , and finally  individual variation in hypoxic damage in myocyte is (Rarely  been studied in detail.)

Door  to balloon time for a patient  who lands up within  1 hour window need  to be  much  different from a patient who comes at 10 th hour .The issue is important  because  we use a procedure which requires delicate decision-making ,(IRA-Non IRA issues etc)  the results can be  sub optimal ,  and even be hazardous in low risk STEMI . So , door to balloon time  may be a less  important  component of  time window in a patient who comes after 6 hours .This is the reason  overall outcomes are not changing in a large cohort  of rapidly performed PCI.

The presumed  absolute  relationship  between  “Time  and  muscle”  concept is  always been a suspect . This  is proven by a flawless study from  NEJM .

nejm stemi most important article


This study should infuse more sense to  us ,  time and again, we are  hijacked and sedated by high dose of  pseudo scientific concoction .In fact ,  indiscriminate rapid PCI may not be in  the good interest of  all  patients with STEMI ,  if it is not properly done  .Without realising this fact many developing countries are indulging in extravagance of  costly STEMI programs wasting  the exchequer.

This landmark NEJM  paper convincingly underscores a fact  that  achieving  rapid door to balloon time  is not  going to be the game changer in  conquering  the Global   STEMI  championship  . We have to take the coronary care into the streets  or to their homes as well .This is where the pre-hospital thrombolysis will  emerge in a big way in the future .

A slow and steady thrombolysis beats a fast and furious primary PCI on any given day in all uncomplicated STEMI .This we have proven for over three decades in  one of the India’s largest coronary care unit .( Where is the data man ?  Genuine experience is data . Why  we require , the act of publication to convert an experience into evidence . Often times ,  I  would feel , data is the most unscientific word in medicine . Many Truths  lack evidence , false hoods come with plenty !  For all those  scientific  homo sapiens  , please recall  70 % of ACC/AHA class 1 recommendations are backed by level C evidence ie simple opinion from  perceived experts! )

Final message

A fast and furious primary PCI may not be  the answer in all STEMI population

Thrombolysis  can be  done  with near  zero time delay , it does not require special expertise where an ambulance driver can reperfuse   a myocardium without much fuss and glamor ! He does not have to  split his hair to identify which is the IRA in a complex multivessel STEMI as well ! The streptokinase and TPA will home in  to the target site  smoothly and swiftly .

If indeed ,  time is the major factor in STEMI , we have many other ways to tame  the time . If muscle is more important than time ,  pPCI is  rarely  the answer !

Some India specific  thoughts

Is it not a shame  , we talk about primary PCI  for all  our patients  who do not even get timely Aspirin* after a STEMI! .It is something akin to what we witness every day ,  as our country folks  wield touch screen  Androids  . . . conversing  in open air toilets !

* While the importance of  Aspirin is undermined , It is different story altogether , these patients  get sorbitarate promptly whenever they get chest pain  (mis-placed and  dangerous priority ! )  prescribed by the  roaring  GPs ,  who suffer from discontinuous medical education ,  propelled  by the deeply penetrated 1000 crore oral Nitrate market .

And STEMI workshops are conducted by self-proclaimed experts  every few months in posh  7 star hotels all over India .

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The doctrine  of  modern medicine  goes  something like this   . . .

For most medical problems ,  there  would be a solution. Keep  trying . . . till you get it !

*But , just make sure that problem on hand deserves a solution in the first place !

Modern medicine continues to  remind us  every day , the much hyped solutions  often end up in new problems and  many  times worse than the original problem !

Oh ! what a  great a quote ! When I  was boasting   myself  . . .  My wife reminded  me ,  this is just  plagiarized version of  a  2000 year old Hippocratic thought !

Primum non nocere  . . . first do no harm !

But , Hippocrates’  life  was  not  contaminated  with  drug eluting stents, I pads, and  BMWs

If   Hippocrates  arrives  in   cath lab  today  by BMW which sucks  50000 Rs EMI  ,Everolimus coated  coronary  jewellery   will  definitely  tempt him !

You  can’t  simply   compare lives separated by 2000 years

. . . I told my wife !

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Heart disease was  once considered as   rich man’s disease  . . .  It’s no longer  true .  We in India ,  are witnessing an epidemic of CAD . The reasons are  varied  . Apart from  conventional factors ,   social   factors  like changing demographic pattern  ,  life style , ethnic  risk  like  south  Asian metabolic profile are responsible .

While  Rheumatic heart disease (RHD ) continues to be a huge burden , CAD  is  the number one  cause for cardiovascular morbidity and mortality .

CAD affect the poor and rich with equal vengeance . The later is better equipped financially to tackle it . Of course ,  it has resulted in maximum inappropriate interventions. The poor (or borderline poor ) have  no  other  option  but  to knock the doors of Government  hospitals. It is heartening to note, various state  Governments   are  gradually involving insurance schemes.

Still , many struggle to find the required  finance for  a major cardiac intervention. It roughly costs 100,000 rupees  for PTCA  .While  PCI is required in all symptomatic ,  critical coronary occlusions , still . . .  majority of the  CAD in general population  do not require it . There are 675 cath labs in India performing 180000 angioplasties every year  on an average of   15000  PCI per month ( 500 /day )  This is grossly inadequate . We  have huge potential

What is the hurdle ?

  • Expertise ?
  • Hard ware ?
  • Awareness ?

No  . . . it is all about  financial resources

Recently I stumbled upon an  advertisement on Times of India

cardiology ad ptca

Disclaimer: This article does not in any way defame any hospital that offers the scheme.It just want to debate the concept.

Hospitals  want  to  market the procedure . Convert angiograms  to angioplasties . That’s   corporate boardroom mantra  . And one fine day ,  bankers and medical doctor sat together and brought a brilliant idea.

Why not do the procedure  on credit and  push the patient  life long  into a financial debt !

Wonderful idea  . . . many thought .Thus came the financing scheme for  cardiac procedures.

Final message

Financing a poor patient  with good intention is welcome. But, there is big caveat .In a vast country   with high  illiteracy , inappropriate  procedures   may be thrusted upon  on   the  poor  souls.

After thought

Now ,  our patients   have  one more  risk parameter to  assess   ” Number of remaining EMI( Equal monthly instalment )  and incidence of stent thrombosis”   “Accumulated  interest  and angina”   What a wonderful way to provide cardiac care !

I can recall a  patient who sold his livestock  (his sole income source ) for undergoing a open heart surgery and lost his life as well in the process  leaving the family stranded !


The only solution is  to  provide  a strictly regulated Govt sponsored  insurance scheme.  High tech procedures should be  continuously and meticulously  audited for cost effectiveness .


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The irony of modern medical care is  9/10 times  medical negligence is  defined in terms of  acts of omission  in  required  level of care . In reality  most medical negligence acts are related to knowingly overdoing a futile diagnostic or therapeutic modality.

This irony was never understood by the public, the professionals or  even the judiciary .This remains  the most dangerous issue  facing modern medicine !

Finally some light is appearing in the horizon . A Missouri  Cardiologist is suspended for overdoing things he knows best  . . . namely coronary stenting ! 

This may bring chills over many cardiologist’s spine .

cardiologist stents inappropriate use interventional


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Critical  and intensive medical care is meant for supporting  an  individual organ (or multiple organs )  at times of extreme distress ,  till the  healing process  prevails over .Later , the patient  shall be shifted safely out of the unit .

Whatever be the modern technology , the single most important factor that  determines the success of ICU outcome  lies within the  patient body ( One estimate says  patient factor constitutes almost  85-90% -Dukes medical center )

Ironically , the modern gadgets, drugs , devices  threatens  . . .  rather  fights . . . with this  inherent  patient fighting  mechanism . We will  never-ever know how many cellular switches are turned on by our biological high  command ,  that compensates  and tries to restore  body  homeostasis.

critical care unit icu ccu.jpg evidecne based medicine modern medicine

Here is a  personal experience with a patient management scenario in an ICU  . The  patient is none other than my father !

He  is a 82 year old man who has  developed a acute febrile illness which rapidly degenerated into  acute respiratory failure  and  X ray  showing  infective bilateral pneumonia  and  probable ARDS  .He was on ventilator for 4 days  and subsequently weaned  off but still  heavily dependent on oxygen . His lung is wet with crackles and wheeze intermittently . His cardiac function was excellent . In one of the episodes of hypoxia he  developed  , mild shooting of blood pressure and minimal ST changes .  Alarmed  by this he was started on  beta blocker , for the first time  . It  was titrated up to maximum doses for a suspected ischemic  episode .

It is  well-known , ECG changes are extremely common in hypoxia , tachycardiac  stressed individuals .

Sympathetic  blockade  is important , only  if ,  it is an inappropriate surge  . When the body fights a disease it is the only major biological weapon available to him .How is it justified to block it ?

When this was discussed with the  team they said they have no power to deviate from  protocol and there is one article , that says  BBs are  beneficial even in COPD !

The patient  continues to be in ICU dependent on oxygen with extreme  ICU fatigue  definitely worsened by the heavy dose of adrenergic blockers which is in my opinion delaying recovery !

Different   organ specialist are prescribing  drugs  according to their level of understanding  (evidence is always available for them  . . . some where )  and radiology fellows  keep taking  snaps of  distressed  organs  in various angles  in HD quality images . Meanwhile , CT scan  seems to have revealed a chronic  interstitial  process   . . . how to diagnose a chronic lung condition  in a man who is  yet to recover from major acute inflammatory lung Injury ! I do not know ? And the current development is they are considering disseminated tuberculosis !

You may a big physician , the patient  may be a very close family member  , modern health care  system makes you watch  helplessly once you hand over  patient to a   complex care  unit .

We hope for the  best .

Final message

               Medical practice  . . . however intensive the care may be  . . .   the bottom line is  . . . it  should be based on  common sense . Modern medicine  tends  to make  this faculty of our brain  blunted .

The  specialty of Intensivist   is largely  misunderstood  . It goes more with  satisfying scientific egos  and public  perceptions  rather than true patient needs .

We need not react to every changing parameter that emanates  from the modern machines  that  keep sending out live  data from a seriously ill patient ,  on a moment  to moment  basis ! (We simply do  not need that ! If only a pilot  reacts with  jitters to every air pocket turbulence ,  he will  not reach the destination safely  ! )

From a cardiologist perspective ,  the humble  request  to all Intensivists   and critical  care physicians   is ,   avoid being  in  “fire fighting mode”   for all  those subtle ECG changes  that occur  in ICUs ,  especially with multi- system disorder (Caution : Acute coronary syndrome in CCU / post PCI  set up   is different story altogether where even a minor ST shift can be significant ! )

Heaven’s  sake  let us  rely more  in  our  brain rather than  the machines and devices !

Above story is not even a tip of an Iceberg . I come across it  every day  in  many ICUs  I visit  . The  most saddening aspect  is ,  we can not point out these mistakes  to our fellow professionals ,  as it  amounts to   hurting academic egos .They are more important  than patient care at any given point of time !

Counter point

For any system to work  , it  needs  a  strict set of guidelines ,  other wise the system of care will fail. This is a  fundamental basis on which modem medical  care works . The only issue is ,  we  should keep checking for any inadequacies in the evidence base and try to correct it. So do not blame the  EBM . It has come to stay .That is the future ! You are very pessimistic towards  modern science !

Rapid response to counter point

But the real issue is  . . . by the time next evidence base finds a major flaw  in the existing system of care ,  damages are already done . So with your clinical acumen  every learned physician is free to create  his own real world  experience .(That is also called Level 3 evidence now ) ** Protocols are not  sacred sermons . It  may  be (rather must be !)   violated if there is a need for the benefit of patient .


* This is not an  attempt to disgrace the concept  of intensive  medical care . Please remember ,  finding fault  could be same as finding facts .(At least in   medical care )


Update ( February 24th, 2013  Sunday , 12.05  AM )

After 25 days of  intensive and aggressive  medical care   we lost one of the great lives

of modern times  which will be celebrated by his  sons and daughters forever !

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Guidelines are meant for simplifying  cardiologist’s life  as well as  ameliorating   patient suffering  . It should also  ensure  improving overall  outcome   with  efficient  use of human resources and  economy .

acc aha guidlines stemi 2013

These guidelines  are written from sophisticated centers  mainly for consumption  in developed countries .Though core  concepts will be same , many recommendations are neither possible nor desirable  at the exact point of delivery  in  less developed countries . Please remember these guidelines are not binding on you .Physician discretion is the ultimate principle in medicine.

So ,  let us read these guidelines apply our mind and try to  indigenise . Get maximum out of it  for the respective population .

Some  of the highlights in this 2013  guidelines
1. Therapeutic hypothermia should be started as soon as possible in comatose patients with STEMI and out-of-hospital cardiac arrest caused by ventricular fibrillation or pulseless ventricular tachycardia, including patients who undergo primary PCI.31–33
(Level of Evidence: B)

2 . Presumed or New onset  LBBB is no longer a Indication for emergency reperfusion

3 . Indication of Primary PCI has the following modification

Primary  pci Guideline in  2013 aha guidelines



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