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Archive for the ‘Ethics in Medicine’ Category

An Interaction in IMCU

How is Mr. K, who was shifted from ward 102 ?

Yes sir, It was acute decompensated LV failure, Patient was in impending pulmonary edema. In fact, he developed. He is fine now,

How did he come around? He was too sick I thought.

“Just pushed 60 mg Frusemide IV, luckily he also had good BP, so with an infusion of NTG, titrated Carvedilol a little bit, he came out nicely. I guess it is Ischemic DCM”.

“Good, You have done a nice job”

“Don’t make me embarrassed sir. It is such a routine in our ER. 

To make him curious, I asked “Which drug do you think that saved him”?

“Obviously, Frusemide sir. He was frothing out. I thought he will require a ventilator. It was a matter of 20 minutes, sort of flushing out 500 ml lung fluid through the urine”.

“No, you are wrong. As a professor and cardiologist, I need to tell you this. Diuretics never save lives heart failure. 

Sir, I guess, you are not kidding. Does this statement apply to acute heart failure? We have saved 100s of lives with Frusemide,  both in acute, acute on chronic, and even in chronic cardiac failures with metolazone.

Hmmm, I agree with you my dear student, Frusemide has saved not hundreds but lakhs of lives in the past decades in all forms of heart failure. It continues to do this fabulous job even now. But, don’t say it in exams or scientific forums. It has no evidence to show survival benefits. You can’t credit a drug without evidence. Also realize, saving lives by unscientific means by a cheap generic is not something to boast upon. We need the blessings of RCTs, or Kaplans Mayer curves, or Forrest blobbograms. Unfortunately . that is the current principle of practice of medicine.

But sir, who is preventing whom, to do such studies. Why they are not comparing diuretics one to one with these modern drugs of inotropes, calcium modulators, or SGLTis, etc? 

I am not sure. My guess is, there are no good friends in the cardiac failure research community for this old warrior drug. 

Loop diuretics 

Till 1960s, toxic mercurial compunds was the only option to drain water in heart failures. The Invention of  Na+/K+ /Cl channel blocker Frusemide, ( In the thick ascending limb of the loop of Henle) is the single most important event, that changed the way we manage cardiac failure in both acute and chronic settings. Still, the current evidence creators hesitate to call it a life-saving drug,

The meteoric rise of SGLT-2 Inhibitors 

Meanwhile, a few micrometers down the hairpin bend of Henle, drugs called phlorizin are doing wonders. These Apple root barks derivatives were since been invaded by Glyflozins Industry. They are made into a powerful glycosuric drug that drags water out of the system along with glucose. This seems to be the biggest revolution in cardiac pharmacology ever since DaVinci drew the heart and Harvey made it functional. I think we need a supercomputer to count the number of papers and analyze the data from Dapa & Empaglyflosin. It is now concluded officially, as an evidence-based life saver in HF.

I asked one Gen X Pharma-geek, “How do these magic drugs perform this miracle in heart failure”? He said beamingly, It is not merely Glyco-diuresis, as you academicians think, it is some mystery action from heaven, still not decoded. What a revelation I thought.

Continuing Medical Education: Choosing the correct path is never easy!

Final message 

Loop diuretics are powerful drugs that aid the failing heart to reduce both pre and after-load. It is a fact, indiscriminate use of these drugs leads to some electrolytes and metabolic issues. But, hiding behind a hazy and shaky evidence base, and trying to ridicule these life-sustaining drugs, is the height of senselessness in cardiac failure literature.

Reference 

(There is a tug of war of evidence between benefits and risks. I guess someone will bring out the truth, which is written clearly on the walls)

1. Chris J Kapelios, Konstantinos Malliaras, Elisabeth Kaldara, Stella Vakrou, John N Nanas, Loop diuretics for chronic heart failure: a foe in disguise of a friend?, European Heart Journal – Cardiovascular Pharmacotherapy, Volume 4, Issue 1, January 2018, Pages 54–63https://doi.org/10.1093/ehjcvp/pvx020

2.Faris R, Flather M, Purcell H, Henein M, Poole-Wilson P, Coats A. Current evidence supporting the role of diuretics in heart failure: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Int J Cardiol. 2002 Feb;82(2):149-58. doi: 10.1016/s0167-5273(01)00600-3. PMID: 11853901.

Postamble

It is to be noted,Eplerenone (EPHESUS trial )  & Finerinone  (FIDELIO-DKD trial) are new generation  K + sparing diuretics and mineralocorticoid antagonists may have better cardioprotection in cardiac failure.(Part of RAAS blockade)

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News: Series of clinical trials fail to clear the ongoing confusion in the business of cardiac revascularization.FAME 3 is the new addition. 

Caution: A non-academic journal review

There is no secret, about this cold war happening in an incognito mode for territorial rights between cardiologists and cardiac surgeons in glamorous cardiac suits for the past two decades. Of course, we keep believing this is a friendly fight in the overall interest of CAD patients. The ultimate winner should be the patient, not anyone else. Will that happen? Will anyone will allow that to happen? I am not sure.

The FAME3 is a stunning large study from 50 centers FFR guided multivessel PCI, that failed to dethrone CABG (or at least it wanted to sit along with it) I am not a seasoned statistician but definitely can’t understand the logic behind the methodology* and the choice of words in the conclusion from a paper published from a renowned journal.

 

 

(*I can recall an article about Non-inferiority trial  from Lancet (Ref 1) )

FAME 3 aftermaths: A dizzy Interpretation

Before accepting the fact that, FFR guided PCI wasn’t able to show its superiority or to unable to prove its non-Inferiority, while CABG was clearly found to be non-inferior, (rather superior) to PCI, we should take into account an important caveat in the concept of FFR itself, which has at least half a dozen serious hyperemic and non-hyperemic flaws that demanded a more superior,non-hyperemic indices like iFR, RFR, qFR, etc.

Those of you who still believe PCI would be an undisputed modality in multivessel CAD  should take up the challenge and disprove the superiority of CABG by doing the same FAME 3 subset with iFR and other stuff. (Eagerly waiting for the hypothetical iFAME 4 trial)

One more way to Interpret FAME 3: How can we accept FFR guided multivessel PCI as inferior, unless we have an FFR guided CABG (FAME 3 didn’t do this) to compare? Can you guess if only pre-CABG FFR was mandatory criteria, that would have excluded or included important grafts, what would have been the impact of CABG? This is a more dramatic suggestion, that will say sorry to FFR,( the old physiological friend,) and label it as a new villain.

Final message 

Multivessel PCI still has a long way to go before trying to dethrone CABG.  But, strictly scientific cardiologists need not worry much and they can continue to indulge multivessel PCI without FFR, which is no longer unscientific ! Thanks to FAME 3. I think one of the Important indirect consequences (?purpose) of FAME 3 would be, playing the end game for FFR.

Reference

https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(07)61604-3

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Is there a solution?

As I understand, we don’t have any. Maybe, we can try this.  No way, I can prevent it from appearing ridiculous for the mainstream scientists.

Truths often lie silently  buried deep (many times intentionally). They definitely deserve an intellectual resuscitation beyond the dirty world of data and evidence. Further, why should experience be considered as enemy of evidence ?

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There are about 30000 scientific journals and two million papers every year. Of which 5000 are in medicine (Ref : World university news) 

Now, take a deep breath and answer this query. What do you think is the most important aspect of any scientific or medical research in the current era ?

Final message

With due respect to all researchers, What do you think is the most important aspect of any scientific or medical research?  This query is very much relevant today. All components are equally important is an easy way out. But, that’s not the pathway that will take us to the truth.

Postamble  

Having answered the above question, no way, we can escape from this question –“Which could be the least important component “?

I guess you got it right. In the current scenario, my choice is striking and is sandwiched in the middle of the 7 responses..

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Yes, it is a triple vessel disease, with one tight lesion and at least two other significant lesions. One of them appears diffuse as well. 

Representative Image: Source courtesy DOI: 10.14740/cr548w LicenseCC BY-NC 4.0

“What to do next?. Is he symptomatic?  Yes. Definitely has significant angina” but LV function is normal.

“Ok then. If you are daring enough, ask this question”.

Which lesion is causing angina?

No easy answer at all. Try looking for some clues right from history, ECG, stress ECHO, meticulous assessment of individual lesions. Realize, even sophisticated imaging like SPECT, PET functional MR, may not help much either.

Oftentimes, we need to use the lean resources of collective common sense and clinical acumen. 

  • If it is post ACS status,  consider residual ischemia in the culprit artery is the cause for angina.
  • Second, consider the tightest lesion as angina-related.
  • Or the complex, eccentric, thrombotic lesion is responsible.
  • Next, consider LAD as default lesion as  angina related artery (Statistically right 75%, prognostically perfect decision) 
  • Watch for ECG changes during chest pain (ST depression usually don’t localize, but experience tell us V5 /V6 ST depression is more likely to be LAD ischemia )
  • Echo wall motion defect either during rest or (more usefully) in stress can really help. (It needs some effort to look for Wall motion mapping with coronary lesion subtending segment)
  • What about balloon inflation test during PTCA ? . Prompt angina when a lesion is occluded may give a direct clue.

Want to get more confused?

  • Ask your colleagues for an opinion either online or offline.
  • Do FFR/QFR/IFR  and OCT and look for intracoronary pressure-flow data and plaque burden. We are entitled to get excited about fibrous cap thickness, and hunt for vulnerable lesions and decide thereupon.  

Finally some easy options. 

Which lesion is causing angina? Never entertain that troubling question at all. (Need not  squeeze your coronary intellect you know ) 

Consider every lesion as important 

  • Get ready to stent all three or more lesions.(Many times forbidden though !)
  • (or) More convenient, refer to CABG. (Surgeons will welcome for sure )

Final message

Which lesion is causing angina? is indeed an important query one should raise. This paves way for selective focussed PCI in deserving lesions alone. However, when dealing with complex lesions subsets. the most pragmatic way as of today is to educate the patient and include them in the decision-making process (Never forget to offer medical management as a permanent option, especially if there is no critical LAD disease, and say thanks to  ISCHEMIA/COURAGE/ BARI 2D.)

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Evidence-based medicine (EBM) is being projected as a scientific God’s secret specialty. Physicians who don’t follow EBM are considered unfit non-professionals. Presumably, in pursuit of truth, all those glamorous official bodies in cardiology bring out umpteen number of protocols, guidelines, advisories, and recommendations.

The blueprint for EBM

We have the famous 3 levels of recommendation backed up by different levels of evidence. Many of us trust these as the jury’s final verdict for most illnesses in cardiology. I would like to bring one particular issue about this hugely popular model of EBM. It is about one specific class of Indication referred to as 2b. The other day, there was an intense argument for an ICD in a young HCM patient and CRT in DCM based on this 2b stuff. Kindly request all of you to pause for a moment and introspect. We can realize, class 2b plays a mischievous game in EBM with the English language “may and may not”. It tries to push subconsciously an interventional bias from equipoise, in spite of lack of good evidence and clear divergence of opinion and a possible trend towards harm.

Further, there is widespread reluctance in many cardiac workgroups to refer class 3 recommendations as an absolute (or at least relative contraindication) It was strange to note one of my colleagues argued that,  class 3 is also a fair recommendation, to accept or reject is in our domain. I was initially shocked to hear that but had to agree with him ultimately as we realized a significant chunk of interventions we do, like delayed PCI > 24 hrs, CTOs, and chronic stable belongs to the proud class 3 recommendation. The debate came to a funny end when a senior cardiologist confessed somehow class 3 seemed to be a lesser evil than even class 2B.

Final message

For the sake of our patients, we need to bring an urgent reform in the EBM. Let us merge class 2b with class 3 and put it in a single basket and keep it out of reach to all tempting stakeholders. We shall display only class 1 in our therapeutic showcase.

Counterpoint

(*Dynamic recommendations is the norm in science, as we accumulate evidence with time.. Agreed, let us do this silently in research labs. Don’t bring it to practical guidelines. No, can’t agree. Freedom to indulge with an experimental modality in a no-option patient must always be there as we are able to give the benefit of doubt to these helpless patients. This is a valid argument but we must not forget even in dire situations  good option need not be a compulsive action, it can be in action as well)

 

 

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The Country of mine with 140 crore population, is under complete lockdown mode. We are anxiously tense in one aspect, but enjoying the free time due to the peculiar “Corona effect” on cardiac emergencies.

Unable to understand you . . . please go away

What happened to our 24/7 busy CCU ? Does it happen only in my hospital? Can’t be. Let me check it right now. I called my fellow, who has since become a leading cardiologist in the nearby town.

guidelines

I have since called many of my close contacts. In both Government and private hospitals. The pooled data were analyzed in a virtual cloud memory. I am fairly convinced, our observation was indeed true.

The following can be considered as near facts.

  • There have been at least 50% minimum dip of Overall ACS cases. It even went down to 80%reduction in a few places
  • Even UA/NSTEMI showed a significant drop.
  • There was general hesitancy to do primary PCI even if it’s technically Indicated.
  • All most all STEMI were lysed. Heparin was liberally used.
  • Many patients preferred telephonic consultations.ECGs were reported over mobile platforms
  • None of the back pains & gastric pains were admitted as atypical chest pain.
  • Most cardiologists closed down their regular OPD
  • For the first time, Govt institutions were considered worthy to refer.

Why ACS Incidence nose dived?

  1. Under recognition?
  2. Under-reported ?
  3. Low Incidence?
  4. Low rate of referral?

STEMI that goes under-recognized and unreported? The consensus was, it’s less important factor as currently, very few are unaware of the Importance of chest pain and widespread availability of emergency services 108/911

Does that mean real incidence has Indeed come down?

The global atherosclerotic burden,(the substrate for STEMI) in the society is nearly constant. Still, the incidence of ACS has declined dramatically in the lockdown period. This conveys an important message and compels a search (research)

The plaques that are waiting to rupture in the population somehow getting a reprieve. Mind you, the presence of a risky plaque in LAD alone won’t cause a STEMI. It needs a trigger. The day to day physical stress, spikes of catecholamine, emotional swings, traffic pollution etc. The only plausible explanation appears to be the vulnerable patients along with their plaques are also locked up inside its Intimo-medial home. (Armchairs and bed rests can not only treat STEMI , they can prevent it too !)

Why the incidence of NSTEMI /UA has also come down?

Again, the same factors might operate. But, more likely self-stabilizing pseudo / Low-risk ACS is a distinct possibility.

A significant chunk of UA /?CSA/suspected NSTEMI patients come from referrals by GPs.The biggest pool of cases for cath labs comes from this group of noncardiac/Atypical chest pain syndromes*. Which shows some Incidental (In)significant lesions that subsequently becomes a cardiac emergency.

Since they have reduced their consultations the numbers have quite significantly reduced.

*Chronic CAD masquerading as ACS is not a forbidden concept

Final message

We are taught some important lifetime lessons in cardiac practice by this 20 nm, lifeless RNA particles.

1. The bulk of the ACS in the society is triggered by the day to day stress of the fast and furious “Just do it” world. The mitigating effect of social lockdown on physical and emotional stress on plaque dynamics on the incidence of ACS will be a big research subject in the coming months.

2. More importantly, It has exposed the existence of one more hidden epidemic in the community “manufactured coronary emergencies” propagated by a resistant cardio tropic virus that has disseminated deep into evidence-based cardiology. Let us cleanse this virus too after finishing off the Corona.

Postamble

It’s just a crazy opinion from a scribbling, blogger. However, I am sure, It’s only a matter of time, great journals like NEJM, JAMA, and Lancet will be screaming the same truths in a more palatable evidence-based manner.

Meanwhile, I can see early signs of restlessness(withdrawal) among us waiting for early release from the lock-up and resume the customary mode of evidence-based cardiology practice.

As I complete this write up . . . .surprised to find this report from TCT MD. Similarities if found, could only be coincidental.

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GettyImages-865142952-5b5eef884cedfd0050112fa6

Charles river esplanade ,Boston* : A healthy middle-aged man who was jogging quietly, while his heart was under intense scrutiny by the bionic eyes of Apple i-watch’s smart patch electrode. Suddenly, it detected some bizarre ST segment fragmentation (Seems it can predict in advance , Ischemic signals 10 minutes prior to onset of ACS ) The built-in cosmos direct GPS instantly alerted & summoned a titanium powered Space X drone that pulled the patient from the riverside to the nearest human wellness port .

EHANG 184

It dropped him through a remotely accessed split glass roof right inside the hybrid heart lab, to find , men and women chatting with flattish Artificial intelligence panels who readily allowed the robotic arms to hug the patient which engaged the coronary artery pushing radiation free magnetic gas found nothing inside and what would become a perfectly normal human coronary artery .

An amused resident robot gently plucked the patient from the cath table with sheepish laughter and called for another drone to drop the patient exactly in the same place from where he was picked up.The healthy hearted patient thanked the doctors profusely and continued his routine evening jog across the Charles of course with a 16-minute delay!

Next day . . .

Event auditing firm medi-logic mind congratulated the entire cardiac team and its digital health hub for the quality of the network and completing this daring coronary rescue mission in 16 minutes. While the drone to hospital roof time was 3 minutes, the coronary artery visualisation time was perfect.The auditing team had a special mention about the astonishing capability of Apple time watch algorithm that made sure that the patient’s evening routine was unaffected in spite of this life-threatening non cardiac pseudo-emergency. The crowning glory was, the entire expenses amounting to 250000 dollors (after a special money back discount coupon for the first false alarm) were taken care by the patient’s virtual insurance blockchain payment gateway.

*You have just read the news that wasn’t – January 2030 AD

Now, back to reality,

Stumbled on this news clip from pages of Times of India, (20-6-2019) months after I wrote the above piece. I wondered the chase between fact and fiction is becoming  really a close race.

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One big hypertension trial called SPRINT was published in 2015, has caused major delayed aftershocks in the hypertensive world now in 2017.

The new guidelines by 2017  AHA/ACC is based primarily on SPRINT data which in my opinion has so much flaws it shouldn’t have been accepted for publication in the first place. !(Intentions and Aim of a study can never be questioned even by most prestigious journals you know !)

  • The flaws begin right  from study design itself. Why diabetic population was excluded from the SPRINT trial is not clearly answered in the true interest of public.The Ironical argument is diabetic patients had no benefit with intensive BP management in ACCORD study. So why waste another study ! Funny is in’t? 
  • When CVD risk profile is intimately linked with these two major entities (DM/HT) it defies sense to  exclude  one them from the study, which is going to assess population based total  CVD risk reduction.
  • Another dramatic confounder is , 90% of SPRINT patients were taking baseline anti HT drugs. So, the original pressure of these people (No,they are patients really !) should have been high . (If you apply this logic , SPRINT study conclusions will not apply for general population who are healthy and free from drug intake! )
  • SPRINT trial also concluded there is little benefit in acute MI and renal protection. The main benefit that tilted in favor of SPRINT was preventing episodes of cardiac failure which was defined by the primitive , subjective , ever unreliable symptomatology of exertional dyspnea.

The ultimate spoiler in SPRINT 

The modality of BP measurement in SPRINT trial can be  termed as as single fit case for rejecting the study in the world hemodynamic court !

We know BP is a continuous variable, between machines , timing of measurement, persons who measure , hand to hand , beat to beat variation etc etc. The SPRINT BP data was accrued  high-profile “Research standard BP” measured by oscillometry method. Please hold your breath , . . these  machines never measure either systolic or diastolic BP.It detects the peak oscillations from brachial artery when the cuff is deflated and ask the vendor dependent fuzzy logic  algorithm to do a guess work of  SBP and DBP , which  proudly flashes them in various LED colors.

The jury is still out whether the methodology is validated or not. SPRINT data should be thoroughly sanitized with a true clinic BP which would  virtually  mean , recall of this (de) famed study !

Final message

How can such a flawed study be taken as reference for  creating major revision of  Hypertension guidelines? 

This question is to be asked in chorus by all respectable physicians and cardiologists.The World health organisation -WHO , custodian of  human health and the silent watch “puppy” has more work to do ! . . please WHO , wake up and bark !

Reference 

1.A Randomized Trial of Intensive versus Standard Blood-Pressure Control The SPRINT Research Group  N Engl J Med 2015; 373:2103-2116 

2.http://www.acc.org/latest-in-cardiology/articles/2015/12/01/10/04/the-sprint-trial-cons

3.http://www.cardiobrief.org/2017/02/08/new-questions-raised-about-sprint/

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