Archive for the ‘Cardiology -Therapeutic dilemma’ Category

Critical multivessel CAD is commonly confronted by cardiologists .These patients either receive multivessel stenting, CABG, with or without optimal medical management(OMT) !

CABG is always done with intention of  complete revasularisation  for all significant lesions. Comprehensive  multivessel PCI though feasible is not practiced widely.Considering the diffuse nature of CAD no treatment is complete except probably intensive medical management.

As of now , addressing only one (or two ) critical lesions in a triple vessel disease by PCI though appear attractive and logical is considered unscientific.Guidelines are not clear in answering the issue.


In a triple vessel disease with a critical LAD lesion,  

Shall we do PCI for LAD and medical management for lesions in RCA or LCX  ?

How about this coronary wisdom  “While medical therapy can take care of less tighter lesions , only critical lesions need catheter based Intervention”

In fact, in STEMI setting we do apply this logic of  targeting one lesion (IRA) at a time. Why not in chronic coronary setting ? There are significant  pros and cons for this approach.While, most 0f us will go with the logical herd,an unique  paper by Mineok  asks us to think again(American Heart Journal, 2016-09-01, 157-165)

How do you define the completeness of revascularization? Is it not emprical ?

We know medical management has well documented advantages in chronic CAD. while multivessel stenting has its own hazards.Hence limiting the time spent within the coronary artery and reducing total stent length should be one of our important goals.

A mini quiz  . . .

How often you have left a fairly significant lesion (attending only the critical lesions )  in your practice ?

What do you think will happen to those non critical lesions  in the long run  ?

Do you believe earnestly drugs can take care of these lesions ?

Forget the science . Whats your experience and  gut feeling ? 

Do you agree , even surgeons do not always do a complete revascularisation either intentionally or for technical reasons ?

Finally ,why we are still  hesitant to call intensive medical therapy as a  “Revascularisation  equivalent”  inspite of valid proof for improved functional class, symptom relief , regression of atherosclerois , collateral preservation and improved microcirculaion.

Final message 

I would say , the science of coronary revascularisation in chronic CAD is stranded at a confused cross road even after three decades of aggressively grown interventional cardiology .At any given point of time medical  management can give a tough fight to catheter  based intervention in most stable IHD.

Hybrid therapy doesn’t always mean combination of PCI and CABG. Judicious mix of PCI and medical therapy is also  a hybrid modality that can bring CAD burden effectively in a meaningful fashion with less metal load.   If you can convert a critical triple vessel disease to non critical DVD or SVD with a single stent it should be welcomed without prejudice. 

With a section of cardiac scientists are in hot pursuit for a completely  bi0reabsorbable stents , let us adopt this “Minimalistic PCI approach” in multivessel CAD, till the time  we reach the “dream the end point” of modern coronary care , ie to  get rid of stent altogether by biological cure for atherosclerosis.


1.Mineok chang, Jung MinAhn, Nayoung  complete versus incomplete revascularization in patients with multivessel coronary artery disease treated with drug-eluting stents Kim,American Heart Journal, 2016-09-01, 157-165,

 2.Tamburino C, Angiolillo DJ, Capranzano P, et al: Complete versus incomplete revascularization in patients with multivessel disease undergoing percutaneous coronary intervention with drug-eluting stents. Catheter Cardiovasc Interv 2008; 72: pp. 448-456

3.Wu C, Dyer AM, King SB, et al: Impact of incomplete revascularization on long-term mortality after coronary stenting. Circ Cardiovasc Interv 2011; 4: pp. 413-421

4.Gao Z, Xu B, Yang YJ, et al: Long-term outcomes of complete versus incomplete revascularization after drug-eluting stent implantation in patients with multivessel coronary disease. Catheter Cardiovasc Interv 2013; 82: pp. 343-349

5.Ong ATL,Serruys PW. Complete revascularization: coronary artery bypass graft surgery versus percutaneous coronary intervention. Circulation. 2006; 114: 249255

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Less than a century ago an easy chair  was enough to manage this most important medical emergency of mankind. Of course, at that time mortality of STEMI was estimated to be around 30%.We have since pushed the in-hospital death rate down to less than 10 %  and its around 5-8% currently.(*The lifeless chairs were able to save 70 lives is a different story!)

Heparin , thrombolytic agents, critical coronary care has helped us to achieve this , of course It must be admitted primary PCI also played a small role (at best 1 % ) in our fight against this number one killer.

Now, why not combine  both lysis and PCI ?

The concept of PIA (Pharmaco Invasive approach) came into vogue  primarily for two reasons.

1.If thrombolysis and  pPCI are powerful strategies by individual merits why not combine both and achieve double the benefit ?

2. Since pPCI is going to be a logistical nightmare in most points of care and we can’t afford to lose time . So, let us lyse first and consider PCI later !

Unfortunately medical science is not math .One plus one in medicine is rarely two !

Though , it looks attractive , Pharmaco invasive approach  has its own troubles.Fortunately , most of them are man-made, few are beyond our knowledge though.

Following general rules  may help us

  • STEMI  should ideally managed by early thrombolysis (or PCI) in all deserving patients.
  • Don’t wait for PCI if you think , there will be delay or reduced expertise and poor track record of the center in this modality.
  • Pharmaco invasive  therapy is not a default in all STEMI .Do good quality , monitored  lysis , (Not necessarily new generation thrombolytic .(I prefer one hour sustained thrombolytic regimen , not the hit or miss bolus) .As a learned cardiologist we need to assess individual patients according to the type and risk of MI.Its not wise to blindly follow the guidelines ,because these guidelines , though based on evidence never answers a query in a single patient perspective !

The key “branch points”  in decision making  after lysis

  • Invasive strategy  should begin within one hour if the patient has failed  thrombolysis and has developed any mechanical issues.( Mind you, LVF requires good medical stabilization .Rushing  such patients to cath lab without application of mind can be disastrous )
  • If the Initial  lysis is excellent and the patient is asymptomatic  one need not proceed with invasive limb at all.(A significant chunk of apparently failed lysis by ECG are asymptomatic and comfortable , these are patients require delicate assessment regarding further intervention. )
  • If the MI is large and the clinical  stability is “not confirmed” one may  proceed urgently within 24 h.
  • In any case there is no role for invasive approach after 24 hours* Unless fresh ischemia  suspected to come from IRA or  non IRA.
  • Having  said that, there are many centers that do a diagnostic  angiogram alone just prior to discharge  (48-72h) for risk stratification and then take a genuine call for a possible PCI or  CABG. In my opinion it appears a sensible strategy , though a non invasive stress  test pre/post discharge can even avoid that  coronary angiogram !

One issue with Rescue PIA

Though by current definition  PIA is to be done  3-24 hours , don’t wait for the 4th hour if you have recognized a failed thrombolysis earlier than three hours.( Ofcourse , as the gap between P and I gets too narrowed it may  carry some adverse  effects witnessed in routine facilitated PCI -Refer FINESSE study ) Similarly,there need not be a blanket ban on PCI beyond 24 hours if residual ischemia is active.

Final message

PIA is a dynamic  coronary  re -perfusion strategy . Nothing is fixed in science. . The optimal gap between Pharmaco and invasive strategy  can be anywhere between  1 hour to “Infinitely deferred” depending upon individual risk perception and wisdom of the treating cardiologist.





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The ECG changes in ACS are “as dynamic as”  the occluding thrombus.The initial events include  sudden total occlusion, early lysis , trickle of flow, partial re-occlusion , reflow, no-flow etc. The extent of transmural vs sub-endocardial injury, the competing force of re-perfusing and necrotic  wave front, would define  ECG findings making  the ST segment labile in early hours of ACS.This is also the basis of  some cases of  STEMI evolving into NSTEMI and vice versa.

A 65 year old man  presented to with this ECG,



Does this ECG allow you to go ahead for thrombolysis ? It actually looks like NSEACS with ST elevation in AVr suggesting left main lesion

The initial  diagnosis of  NSTEMI was made , and hence  thrombolysis was not considered. Even as the fellows  were mulling over the diagnosis , we subsequently came to know  there is one more  ECG available taken few hours ago  in  another hospital .

It had something on it ,


This ECG taken few hours ago , shows ST elevation in 1 and AVL and few VPDS in chest leads unmasks the anterior ST elevation .

The moment we saw this ECG it was decided to go ahead with thrombolysis .The final ECG after thrombolysis with (Streptokinase) showed further stabilization .The question of thrombolysis  in NSTEMI though not indicated in general , in selected  situations we need to Introspect !


How to mange  a patient who presents as NSTEMI but had STEMI  few hours ago ?

Four  ways to ponder !

  • This patient should not be lysed  as we have to treat the current event not the past.  ,(Its NSTEMI and no need for lysis) Just heparin,dual antiplatelets .That will do.
  • One can go ahead with lysis as there is evidence for STEMI in prior ECG.
  • There is ST elevation  in AVr even in the second ECG and so you have to thrombolyse !
  • “Come on guys , . . . are you still in the primitive era, of managing ACS in CCU , just forget  the ECG take him to cath lab , suck out all thrombus and deploy a stent and come out”.

* The last one , though appear practical (and most of us would love to indulge ) is an unprofessional way of practicing cardiology.Management of ACS requires sound principles of ECG and its correlation  with the Intra-coronary  and myocardial  pathology.

What happened to this patient ?

He did well, free of angina with minimal LV dysfunction. He was discharged .Will be reviewed two weeks later,for further evaluation.This is typical example of a patient with ACS managed without  even entering cath lab.

Final message

ECG changes are as dynamic as the Intra-coronary blood flow in ACS. Various factors  determine  the ST elevation or depression.While ,thrombolysis is reserved for STEMI,  NSTEMI has little or no benefits to accrue with thrombolysis .However this is applicable only for de-novo NSTEMI  and may not apply for a STEMI in transition into NSTEMI as in the above patient .


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Answer  : I guess all mechanisms  contribute.Though E appears unlikely,  its backed by evidence (Ref 5)

Balloon pericardiotomy is done as a drainage procedure in recurrent pericardial effusion. It is is actually a replication of surgical window  by interventional cardiologist.The window not only drains the effusion it also act as a continuous drain. Though the  benefits are real,( In that the pericardial fluid is shunted away from the pericardial space)  the exact mechanism of its benefit is not clear .

By concept , the catheter and  balloon should not cross pleural space , (As pneumothorax may ensue) but still pleural effusion is a common consequence of this procedure .How is this possible ? One probable explanation is,  the pleural space has some hidden communication with pericardial space .The other possibility is, the balloon creates patent tissue channels  in the para-cardiac spaces of mediastinum .The extra-cardiac lymphatics does the drainage job without true shunting  pericardial space into the pleural space..

There is a from Annals of thoracic surgery which specifically   looked  into the  mechanism of benefit of  surgical pericardial window and came to a surprise conclusion that it is not the continuous  drainage (As  we don’t create patent drain ) rather,  the window  somehow helps obliterate  the the peicardial space.(Sugimoto 1990,Annals of thoraic surgery )

Future  Innovation  : A technical add on could be delivering a covered stent across the pericardial space  into  peritoneal space like a VP shunt done by  Neurosurgeons.( If no body has done this I can claim the patent rights !)

The procedure


percutaneous balloon pericarditomy

Image used from Daniel A. Jones & Ajay K. Jain, Journal of thoracic Oncology , 2011

Risk of procedure

The procedure carries a definite risk especially  if done in an  emergency fashion. The aim of  procedure is two fold one to drain pericardial effusion second to prevent recurrence of effusion  .Since procedure carries risk its to be performed  only in malignant effusion that are documented to be recurrent.

Surgical vs Balloon window  and other alternatives

Surgical window  creation is well known procedure , ever since Palacios (Ref 1) in 1991 described this per cutaneous approach as an alternative to surgery has become less popular. The risk of anesthesia and co-morbidity makes balloon pericardiotomy attractive. But surgical window creation still may have a role. A video  assisted pericardiotomy by thoracoscopy is also possible .Another option is injecting scerlosing agents into pericardial space .This time tested simple modality probably requires  more attention.

Need for subsequent pleural tapping

It should be realised this procedure may just the shift the  fluid from pericardium to pleural space. Some of them become significant effusion that requires pleural space drainage.

Concern of risk of dissemination of malignancy

Its a real issue , there has been instances of accelerated death after the procedure. Hence this procedure is a trade of  between patient comfort and quality of life with a  potential risk of dissemination impacting  the longevity of life .

1.Palacios IF, Tuzcu EM, Ziskind AA, Younger J, Block PC. Percoutaneous balloon pericardial window for patients with malignant pericardial effusion and tamponade. Cathet Cardiovasc Diagn 1991: 22;244-249.




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Dengue is a global infectious disease caused by Flavivirus  (RNA) transmitted by day biting mosquitoes Ades aegypti .It is primarily a tropical or sub tropical disease , India is marked  among the epicentre . 75% of dengue infections  are asymptomatic. Among  the remaining 25 % only 5 % develop severe dengue and a fraction of them go for a dreaded  circulatory and bleeding complication leading to a likely fatality.Severe hypotension is the hall-mark in dengue shock .

The mechanism of shock

The sine-qua non of dengue shock is the  capillary leak syndrome .This is due to some unknown vascular toxins acting in micro circulatory network making it exude fluid .This is something similar to septic shock where mal-distriubution of fluids in the extravascular  or third  spaces occur . This is also referred to as  re-distributive or vasodilatory shock due to lack of effective circulatory volume. Significant serous cavity effusions  (Both pleural effusion and ascites )  contribute to the shock syndrome .  Meanwhile there can be accompanying  fluid loss due to vomiting as well  .Adding further complexity ,direct cardiac involvement in few in the form of myocarditis can cause lung congestion and confusing the true mechanism of shock .This has important  hemodynamic implication as overzealous fluid therapy without recognising a possible myocarditis can be counter productive.Few sick patients will drag the lung into the vicious cycle ending up with ARDS , refractory hypoxia and worsening shock.

*To reemphasize , even though there are  multiple components  for dengue shock , the capillary leak  is the dominant theme .

Timing of shock

The onset of shock peaks after 24-48 hours of fever .It may  even be delayed well after subsidence of fever (Deffervescence phase )

Differential effect on diastolic and systole pressure

Dengue primarily drops the systolic  pressure  due to hypovolemia .The diastolic BP may be kept artificially high due the heightened adrenergic tone .This is ironical , as even the fluid  is sequestrated into dead  space patient may appear stable but it can fall dramatically without any warning once the sympathetic reserve is exhausted .This is the hallmark of dengue circulatory  shock .

*Note : Dengue shock typically  narrows the pulse pressure, that’s responsible for the feeble thready pulse.This is in contrast to septic shock* where the PVR is low, pulse pressure is either normal or even apparently high.(* Not all situations)

Clue from hematocit regarding the status of shock

Initially the heamtocrit  tends to increase  (hemo-concentration )  as fluid extravasates . Later it strikes a balance as we attempt to replenish with fluids. During recovery as fluids reenter vascular compartment or due to sustained fluid therapy the hemo-dilution can occur and heamtocrit  may fall.

How  common is  myocarditis  in  dengue fever ?

Fortunately ,dengue fever rarely affects the heart directly  .(Of course, shock can be a killer even without involving the heart) Myocardits due to dengue virus  is randomly reported in literature (Ref 3,4). My guess is , the true incidence should be far  higher as most of the dengue cases are from countries where publications are rare ! Bed side echo will reveal a minimally dilated Left ventricle with global hypokinesia  and moderate to severe LV dysfunction. No need to prove myocarditis  by virology ,biopsy etc. ( (New onset LV dysfunction with S3 , tachycardia is suffice) .Treatment is only supportive and Inotropic  agents may be helpful. Recovery in LV function is usually complete in those who survive.

Acute pulmonary edema though expected with LV dysfunction , overzealous fluid therapy can be a trigger for this complication . Involvement  of  conduction system is  another evidence for myocardial pathology. AV block  (J Clin Diagn Res. 2015 May; 9(5)  and Atrial fibrillation have been described in association with dengue.


  • Anticipation and prevention of onset of  shock syndrome is  the key .
  • Careful monitoring of child is required.
  • Altered mentation is vital clue
  • Continuous fluid resuscitation is the only proven treatment .
  • Platelet infusion is required in clinical bleeding generally <10000)

Steroids, Immuno-suppression ,globulin have limited or no value  even in fulminant dengue fever .

Post-ample : Role of cardiologist in dengue shock .

Once , recently  I was called to see a child  with  refractory dengue shock .It turned out to be a helpless consult for the parents who had great faith in me .They believed  as a  modern day cardiologist ( circulatory specialist ?) with sophisticated devices I will be able revive the vascular system .I regretted ,there is nothing specific can be done ,the entire circulatory system is leaking and had lost its tone ,we have to wait ,watch and pray .

I realised on that day , how these tiny mosquitoes can expose us  . . . the  much hyped cardio vascular specialist’s  skills who live a celebrity life,hopping between cath labs , still unable to deliver at a critical time of need !

Reference :

1.Capillary leak syndrome in dengue fever.New Delhi: WHO Regional Office for South-East Asia and Manila: WHO Regional Office for the Western Pacific.Dec-2011


dengue myocarditis

3.Kabra SK, Juneja R, Madhulika, Myocardiald ysfunction in children with dengue haemorrhagic fever.Natl Med J India.1998Mar-Apr; 11(2): 59-61
4.Wali JP, Biswas A, Chandra S,  Cardiac involvement in Dengue Haemorrhagic Fever.Int J Cardiol.1998 Mar 13; 64(1): 31-6.

5.Horta Veloso H, Ferreira Júnior JA, . Acute atrial fibrillation during dengue hemorrhagic fever.Braz J Infect Dis.2003 Dec; 7(6): 418-22

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A cardiologist  is  a physician who has  trained himself  in a special  way  to deal with any problem of heart.Ironically , it exists only on paper.The field has developed so vast  no one can master everything .There is no such  “Pan or global cardiology expert” .In fact it would be shortly become unethical to try to become one !

Pediatric cardiology  has developed into such a big field , doing a echo in newborn or  infant has become a comprehensive job and  requires  special talent .This unique  and excellent study from Narayana Institute , Bangalore published in the  prestigious Annals of pediatric cardiology   throws up interesting realities about the quality of echo report done by adult cardiologists in children .The error rate  appears  huge and stands at  prohibitive 38%. While many errors were minor , major  were also not insignificant (23%)

pediatric echocardiography by adults cardiologist

With bulk of the pediatric echo  involves  in the critical decision making  process of device closures and interventions the  data required  becomes vital .The commonest cause for  error is probably not due lack of  knowledge and but to due to lack of commitment and  continuous  exposure in doing echocardiograms in  those age group.

While this paper  decently skirts the issue of quality of pediatric echo done in medium sized hospitals without pediatric cardiology service ,I can say the error rates or inadequate reportage could be significant  in such hospitals  with apparently good ranking .


Of course ,we have many  adult cardiologist who do  excellent  pediatric work , It looks like , as a general rule  performing pediatric echocardiograms  by non -institutionalized  adult cardiologist  may not be appropriate ! It may be wise for them to avoid doing echocardiogram in small infants with  truly complex disorders (even perceived  complex) till they gain the required expertise and confidence.

I recall an  adverse  issue happened years ago ,  when I had  missed an associated    PAPVC  in ASD that made my surgeon anxious on table .In a country like ours there is no one to audit our work , “our conscience remains the only option” to deliver the best for our patients  especially so, when they are tiny lives in distress.

After thought

Who am I to suggest  who should do echocardiogram ? , after all every cardiologist is licensed  to do that . One simple  suggestion  would be , if  not confident  they can at least mention in their report it is only  preliminary evaluation and need to be followed up with  an expert . I do that whenever its required  and gives me peace of mind as well !

More controversies* to come

Can adult cardiologist do pediatric intervention ?

* Controversy : One of the meaning for this word  is  “It is a thought  process  set into motion , that aids digging up hidden truths ”



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Brugada syndrome is due to a genetically  impaired  sodium channel activity  ( SCN5A)  in phase o, of action potential .This results in phase 1 (Ito channel) failing to inscribe the transition between phase 0 and  1 that result in loss of  dome .This loss of dome is dominant in epicardial cells compared to endocardial cells.This result in  electrical heterogeneity and a hence a voltage gradient in repolarisation phase  that can trigger a Phase 2  reentry mediated  VT /VF.The above said defects are either dormant, manifest, self extinguishing , dynamic  subjected to autonomic tone , ambient myocardial temperature (Febrile VTs) making this a complex entity.

There are three distinct types according to surface ECG.It can be either spontaneous or induced. The arrhythmic events and prognosis and hence management differs according to the types.

mechanism of brugada syndrome three types of ecg 2All types carry  a minimal risk of SCD , variable though . Of course  syncope  has to be  much more  common. Curiously every episode of syncope is seen as naturally aborted SCD by physicians ! (No one  to be blamed for this .The definition of syncope is like that !If the patient doesn’t wake from syncope it becomes death !).

When a patient with Brugada  has a  syncope , it  doesn’t  imply  he  experienced a dreaded VT or VF.While SCD is invariably due to ventricular fibrillation , a spontaneously terminating VF  as a cause for syncope is rare in Brugada . (Ref 2 : ILRs have documented though in few)

So what exactly is the cause for syncope in Brugada ? The issue is  real  and critical in clinical decision-making. We are beginning to document variety of mechanisms. Following are the possible causes

  1. Sustained  VT or NSVT with
  2. Non sustained self terminating  VF
  3. Extreme bradycardias (Vaso vagal )
  4. AV blocks
  5. Unrelated neurogenic

Final message

It is to be strongly emphasised a significant subset of Brugada patients especially in Type 1   Brugada (spontaneous or drug induced )  the mechanism of syncope is often not related to the dreaded VT/VF. It can simply represent high vagal tone and unexplained dynamism of autonomic activity .ICD is not a default indication for all those with syncope in Brugada syndrome.Think , pause and decide when you deal with such patients. ICDs are true revolutionary devices  . . . no two thoughts about it,but it can make a hell out of heaven if used in an inappropriate situation !


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