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Is it true , once a patient is labelled as a hypertensive he remains  hypertensive life long ? Is it possible to withdraw antihypertensive drugs  permanently ?

  • Systemic  hypertension is the most common clinical entity and it forms the bulk of the physician consultations world over.
  • The anti hypertensive drugs are  one of the most commonly  prescribed medication  by the medical professionals .
  •  It is estimated , the major chunk of  revenue to pharma industry is contributed by antihypertensive  drugs.
  •  SHT , is being maintained  as a  major , global cardiovascular risk factor , by  periodically refixing the target blood pressure  to lower levels  by various committees.
  • The terminology of pre hypertension for blood pressure between 120-140 was hugely controversial    and some societies refused  to accept this entity.

Is there a case for withdrawal of anti hypertensive agents  among our patients ?

Yes , in fact there is a strong case for it.

While on the one hand there is a sustained effort ( By whom !)  to increase the drug usage , very early in the course of hypertension , there is also a silent progress in our knowledge ,  regarding withdrawl of anti hypertensive agents in all those undeserving patients .

It is estimated 42% *of the so called hypertensives especially elderly can be successfully weaned of anti hypertensive drugs with out any adverse effect.( Mark R Nelson BMJ. 2002 October 12; 325(7368): 815.)

What are the situations where we can successfully with draw anti hypertensive drugs?

  • The most common group of patients  are the ones, where  the anti hypertensive drugs are  started prematurely , with out giving an option for non drug life style  approach.These patients and their physicians continue to believe , anti HT drugs are sacred and essential !
  • There is another  major group of patients who have had a temporary  elevation of BP due to a stressful environment.These patients  get drugs permanently for a temporary problem . These patients need  to be reassessed.
  • Some of the elderly  patients,  with the onset of  age  related autonomic dysfunction ,these  drugs are poorly tolerated and  even have  disastrous effects .In this population  it is desirable , to wean off the anti HT drugs  and switched over to life style  medication whenever possible.

Final message

Essential or primary hypertension is not a permanent  disease, in bulk of our population. It reflects the  state of  the  blood pressure on a day to day basis  and is a continuous variable. All patients who have been labelled as hypertensives( Either by us or others) should be constantly reviewed  and considered for withdrawal of the drugs if possible.

* Note this rule does not apply in all secondary hypertensions, during  emergencies, uncontrolled hyper tension with co existing CAD /diabetes /dyslipidemias etc .

Please refer to these forgotten Landmark articles

Does Withdrawl of Anti hypertensive Medication 

Increase the Risk of Cardiovascular Events?

The TONE study

Source: The American Journal of Cardiology, Volume 82, Number 12, 15 December 1998 , pp. 1501-1508(8)

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9874055

Conclusion of TONE study

The study shows that antihypertensive medication can be safely withdrawn in older persons without clinical evidence of cardiovascular disease who do not have diastolic pressure > or = 150/90 mm Hg at withdrawal, providing that good BP control can be maintained with nonpharmacologic therapy

 

Some of the references for successful withdrawl of antihypertenive drugs

1.Nelson, M; Reid, C; Krum, H; McNeil, J. A systematic review of predictors of maintenance of normotension after withdrawal of antihypertensive drugs. Am J Hypertens. 2001;14:98–105. [PubMed]
2.
Wing, LMH; Reid, CM; Ryan, P; Beilin, LJ; Brown, MA; Jennings, GLR, et al. Second Australian nationalbloodpressure study (ANBP2): Australian comparative outcome trial of ACE inhibitor- and diuretic-based treatment of hypertension in the elderly. Clin Exp Pharmacol Physiol. 1997;19:779–791.
3.
Lee, J. Odds ratio or relative risk for cross-sectional data. Int J Epidemiol. 1994;723:201–203. [PubMed]
4.
Lin, D; Wei, L. The robust inference for the Cox proportional hazards model. J Am Stat Assoc. 1989;84:1074–1079.
5.
Veterans Administration Cooperative Study Group on Antihypertensive Drugs. Return of elevated blood pressure after withdrawal of antihypertensive drugs. Circulation. 1975;51:1107–1113. [PubMed]
6.
Medical Research Council Working Party on the Management of Hypertension. Course of blood pressure in mild hypertensives after withdrawal of long term antihypertensive treatment. BMJ. 1986;293:988–992. [PubMed]
7.
Alderman, MH; Davis, TK; Gerber, LM; Robb, M. Antihypertensive drug therapy withdrawalin a general population. Arch Intern Med. 1986;146:1309–1311. [PubMed]
8.
Blaufox, MD; Langford, HG; Oberman, A; Hawkins, CM; Wassertheil-Smoller, S; Cutter, GR. Effect of dietary change on the return of hypertension after withdrawal of prolonged antihypertensive therapy (DISH). J Hypertension. 1984;2(suppl 3):179–181.
9.
Mitchell, A; Haynes, RB; Adsett, CA; Bellissimo, A; Wilczynski, N. The likelihood of remaining normotensive following antihypertensive drug withdrawal. J Gen Intern Med. 1989;4:221–225. [PubMed]
10.
Myers, MG; Reeves, RA; Oh, PI; Joyner, CD. Overtreatment of hypertension in the community? Am J Hypertens. 1996;9:419–425. [PubMed]
11.
Stamler, R; Stamler, J; Grimm, R; Gosch, F; Dyer, R; Berman, R, et al. Trial of control of hypertension by nutritional means: three year results. J Hypertens. 1984;2(suppl 3):167–170.
12.
Takata, Y; Yoshizumi, T; Ito, Y; Ueno, M; Tsukashima, A; Iwase, M, et al. Comparison of withdrawing antihypertensivetherapy between diuretics and angiotensinconverting enzyme inhibitors in essential hypertensives. Am Heart J. 1992;124:1574–1580. [PubMed]
13.
Whelton, PK; Appel, LJ; Espeland, MA; Applegate, WB; Ettinger, WH; Kostis, JB, et al. Sodium reduction and weight loss in the treatment of hypertension in older persons: a randomised controlled trial of nonpharmacological interventions in the elderly (TONE). JAMA. 1998;279:839–846. [PubMed]
14.
Heart Outcomes Prevention Evaluation Study Investigators. Effects of an angiotensin-converting-enzyme inhibitor, ramipril, on death from cardiovascular causes, myocardial infarction, and stroke in high-risk patients. N Engl J Med. 2000;342:145–153. [PubMed]
15.
Howes, L; Krum, H. Withdrawing antihypertensive treatment. Curr Therapeutics. 1988;November:15–20.
16.
Fotherby, MD; Harper, GD; Potter, JF. General practitioners’ management of hypertension in elderly patients. BMJ. 1992;305:750–752. [PubMed]
17.
Jennings, GL; Reid, CM; Sudhir, K; Laufer, E; Korner, PI. Factors influencing the success of withdrawal of antihypertensive drug therapy. Blood Press Suppl. 1995;2:99–107. [PubMed]

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Which is  the most important factor that determines thrombolysis failure in STEMI  ?

  1. Thrombus load .
  2. Drug efficiency
  3. Time delay
  4. Presence of a mechanical lesion
  5. Hemodynamic instability

Answer : 3 .(Though all 5 factors operate )

Failed thrmbolysis occur in about 40-50% after streptokinase and slightly less with TPA   and TNK-TPA . Delayed arrival and late thrombolysis are  most common cause of failed thrombolysis. As the time flies , the  myocardium gets damaged and the intra coronary  thrombus gets organised .Both these processes make delayed thrombolysis a futile exercise.

               Not all STEMI patients have large thrombus burden. There need to be a critical load of thrombus for thrombolytic to be effective

Some may have a major mechanical lesion in the form of plaque fissure, prolapse and it simply blocks the coronary artery mechanically like a boulder on the road  . The poor  streptokinse  or the rich Tenekteplace !  nothing can move this boulder .The only option here is emergency PCI .

How will you know when the patient  arrives in ER with STEMI whether his/ her coronary artery is blocked with soft thrombus or hard mechanical boulder ?

It is impossible to know.That’s why primary PCI has a huge advantage.  But still thrombolysis is useful as some amount of thrombus will be there in all patients with STEMI.Lysing this will provide at least a  trickle of  blood flow that will jeep the myocardium viable and enable us to take for early PCI.

Final message

The commonest cause for thrombolytic failure is the time of administration and the degree of underlying mechanical lesion  . So  it does not make sense  to blame  streptokinase always !

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What is herd behavior ?

It is a behavioral pattern where in animals and humans in large numbers , tend to behave in the same way at the same time without application of mind .


Herd behavior in human societies

Herd behaviour describes how individuals in a group can act together without planned direction. The term pertains to the behaviour of animals in herds, flocks, and schools, and to human conduct during activities such as stock market bubbles and crashes, street demonstrations, sporting events, episodes of mob violence and even everyday decision making, judgement and opinion forming. This is very much applicable to medical profession also.(Ref:Wikipedia)

Herd behaviour in animals and human how they are different ?

“surprise ! surprise ! There is  very little difference  noted , according to Hamilton”

A group of animals fleeing a predator shows the nature of herd behavior. In the often cited article “Geometry For The Selfish Herd,” evolutionary biologist W. D. Hamilton said each individual group member reduces the danger to itself by moving as close as possible to the center of the fleeing group. Thus the herd appears to act as a unit in moving together, but its function emerges from the uncoordinated behavior of self-seeking individuals.

Among humans for example when panicked individuals confined to a room with two equal and equidistant exits, a majority will favor one exit while the minority will favor the other.

Medical professionals as a herd


The practicing habits of  medical professionals  move , symmetrically as a herd . When a top journal or a opinion leader utters something every one tend to move in that direction .

If a herd leader says a particular treatment is great, every one will say yes . If he says nay every one will say nay !

No one will really question the direction they move ? Unless the correction occurs from within the herd. No external forces usually are effective.Herding is also benefitial many times as rapid propogation of scientific facts needs such behavior ,but it needs constant scrutiny.

 

Herd behavior example 1 : The most  typical example is the drug prescribing pattern of anti hypertensive agents over the past half century.The movement  from diuretics to beta blocker , from beta blockers to calcium blockers and to ACE inhibitor and again to diuretic  , then to ARBs and currently shying strongly away from beta blockers, in between  have a brief encounter with alpha blockers and finally  back to diuretics.

If a  particular physician by his insight , had clinged onto  diuretics ( Away from the herd ) for over three decades he is a real exemption , although branded old timed  and unscientific , he has been the most scientific medical professional indeed !

Herd mentality example 2 : Every one says so !  so it must be true ! Hormone replacement therapy good or bad goes with the leader of the herd . 

Herd mentality example 3: Very few cardiologists will be ready to agree the fact that , simple digoxin and diuretic ,ACEI, beta blocker,  administration could be as effective as  the costly cardiac resynchronisation therapy in atleast some of patients with wide QRS cardiac failure ( As we know up to 30 %  wide QRS CHF population do not respond to CRT) 

Defying Herd mentality resulted in major break throughs in medicine

               When every one was  saying beta blocker was harmful in CHF one person from Briton defied it ( Wagenstein, and now beta blockers are the mainstay in the management of CHF! )

There are hundreds of treatment modalities popularised by such herd behavior

Who is the watch dog  , whether science is moving in the correct direction ?


Read this land mark article  how medical research can be distorted by such learned behavior  and how scientific research should not be done .

Click on the image .

 This post is not intended to hurt anyone . It  reflects , human beings are not  fully evolved  yet , in the onging  process of evolutionary biology.

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                                               The superior aspect of   coronary sinus and a portion of the left atrium share a common wall .Embryological defects in this area result in a communication between left atrium and coronary sinus. This defect  descriptively called as unroofed coronary sinus .This entity is most commonly associated with persistent left SVC. Extreme form of unroofing is some times termed as absent coronary sinus.

How to diagnose it ?

A high degree of anticipation is necessary in all patients with ASD or LSVC. A dilated coronary sinus in routine echocardiography warrants full investigation. A contrast echocardiography with agitated saline injection in left cubital vein will clinch the diagnosis as contrast enters LA after opacifying the dilated coronary sinus. During  right heart catheterisation catheter course entering coronary sinus and  advancing into LA through the fenestrations (Unroofing)  will confirm the defect.

How do you classify unroofed coronary sinus ?

The morphologic type of URCS was classified as Kirklin and Barratt-Boyes

 Type   I, completely unroofed with LSVC;

 Type II, completely unroofed without LSVC;

 Type III, partially unroofed midportion;

 Type IV, partially unroofed terminal portion

What is the clinical relevance of this entity ?

This entity should be suspected in every patient with persistent LSVC, ( and LSVC should be suspected in every patient with ASD). The hemodynamics is that of an ASD but if sufficient mixing of LSVC blood and LA blood takes place the child will have mild cyanosis.Some times when the coronary sinus is totally absent it will present as a typical dusky ASD picture which can closely mimic a TAPVC clinically.

Surgeons have a greater role in recognising and treating this entity. A typical repair will be done like this

 

Links to some of interesting articles on this topic

Raghib circulation 1965

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Humans have roughly 5 to 6 liters of blood at any given time in their  body  . Out of  this*

50% (2500ml)  is located in the systemic venous compartment.
18% is within the pulmonary circulation participating in the vital oxygenation
12% (500-600ml) is within the cardiac chambers.
8%  is in the arterial tree of  the body.
5%  is  within the  capillaries.
2%  is in the aorta.
* Source : Best & Taylor Physiological basis of  medical practice 1966, 8th edition

What is the implication of this predominantly venous distribution of blood  at rest ?

  • A competent venous tone is essential  for the human beings to maintain the erect posture.
  • Bulk of the cause of syncope in humans is due to peripheral  mechanism like loss of vascular tone and resultant venous pooling.
  • The  concept of venous reservoir is so important in emergency situations like  hypotension  as  simple elevation of legs  is equivalent to  infusing 500 -800 ml of intravenous saline .
  • Similarly during acute left ventricular failure trunk elevation and legs dangling down can reduce the pulmonary congestion very significantly and reduce pulmonary capillary wedge pressure (LVEDP)

 Autonomic dysfunction and venous insufficiency

 Autonomic dysfunction and resultant  orthostatic hypotension is directly related  to venous reservoir dysfunction.Increasing effective circulatory volume by elastic stockings or administration of mineralocorticosteroids like fludrocortisone (.5mg/day ) can be useful in this condition

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                             Glucose is the molecule of life   ,burnt every second inside the body at the energy store house called mitochondria. Heart , the most active organ in the body  gets  bulk  of it’s energy supply  from fatty acids,  glucose and a little from keto acids. Under anerobic conditions this energy substrates shifts towards glucose .

                             We are  rarely inclined to think  that heart  can ever suffer from hypoglycemia ! But hypoglycemia can have distinct direct and indirect effects on heart.  In fact indirect effects due to activation of adrenergic activation is more obvious.An episode of hypoglycemia can precipitate an arrhythmia . Glucose potassium insulin infusion

 

 

 

Final message

Hypoglycemia , can be a trigger of ACS .This aspect is poorly recognised and studied.

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Ventricular fibrillation is invariably fatal if not treated . When can atrial fibrillation be fatal ? 

                                     Atrial fibrillation is relatively a benign arrhythmia especially when it occurs in isolation with  structurally normal heart.This is sometimes referred to lone atrial fibrillation . Even otherwise, atrial fibrillation is rarely fatal except in few situations.But AF commonly destabilises the patient  who have baseline valvular or myocardial disease.(Post MI, dilated cardiomyopathy etc)

There are few situations where AF can be life threatening

  • In patients  with WPW syndrome*where , AF  enters into a electrical short  circuit , downhill to enter the ventricle and make it fire at the same rate as that of atria . ( ie 400-600) and result in ventricular  fibrillation.Note , even here it is the VF that kills  not , AF per se.
  • AF in acute MI  often precipitates LVF , but rarely fatal.
  • In patients with critical aortic stenosis, or hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, sudden onset of AF can result in acute cardiac failure.
  • AF is often a terminal event in primary pulmonary hypertension

While atrial fibrillation is  less likely to cause  death , it is  a highly morbid arrhythmia .It is one of important cause of stroke in elderly as well as young !

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                                  Even as cardiology community is preoccupied with systemic hypertension & CAD  ,  pulmonary arterial hypertension(PAH) is a much neglected , still  an important clinical cardiac problem encountered . The irony is self evident , there are half a dozen methods to grade systemic hypertension not even a single stadardised grading available for pulmonary arterial hypertension. The WHO  working group defined pulmonary hypertension  few decades ago and was not clinically graded .The only grading available is based on  the pulmonary vascular biopsy changes (Heath Edwards) 

                                   Currently PAH management has gone through revolutionary changes. There is an urgent  need for grading  this entity .This will facilitate to  diagnose , manage and assess the efficacy of the currently available treatment.

                                Developing countries like ours have a great number of PAH due to rampant rheumatic heart disease.  A simple study was done in  100 patients with PAH .Bulk of the study population had RHD .Few had primary pulmonary  hypertension .Systolic , diastolic, and mean pressure was assessed by doppler echocardiographic analysis of tricuspid regurgitation (TR) and pulmonary regurgitaion(PR) jets. TR jet provided the systolic PA pressure , PR jet provided mean as well as diastolic PA pressure .TR jet was available in all patients. PR jet was available only in 60 patients .Hence the diastolic andmean PA pressure data has been extrapolated in some  and  was plotted in a scatter diagram. Five equal quintiles were divided. Patients in first  and 2nd quintiles were graded 1   and third  and 4th  quintile were  graded 2 ,  5 th  was graded 3 respectively. From this cut off points for  various grades of PAH were identified .The top 3% of patients  with highest PAP were graded as grade 4 and all of them had supra systemic PAH. 

The following grading is suggested for PAH* 

 *This is a preliminary  attempt to grade PAH. This could be applicable mainly in rheumatic heart disese and primary pulmonary hypertension .Further refining of methodology is  required.PAH grading may be little different in congenital left to right shunts.

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                        Palpitation is one of the common symptoms for which cardiac patients are referred. Like dyspnea , palpitation can either be a physiological expression of normally beating heart or a  dangerous pathological state of the heart. This makes this symptom unique and warrants careful evaluation.                                                                                                                                                         By definition palpitation  is abnormal  awareness  of ones own heart beat. Heart is a mechanical organ with multiple mobile anatomical structures. There is  constant  blood  flow in multiple directions . Apart from this the heart   has  it’s unique translational, rotational movement . These intrinsic movements combined with proximity to chest wall  generate vibratory  motion  signals .These signals are generally dampened by the encircling pericardial space .The neural signals responsible for  perception  of palpitation is not clear. If the heart hits against the chest wall it is the  somatic nerves from the chest wall that carries the signal. Vibrations generated within the heart chambers, and  and the  valves  are  carried  by the  myocardial and intravascular  sensors.( Autonomic) 

What are causes of palpitation?

       Cardiac

  • All hyperdynamic circulatory states. It may be generated from either  right or left ventricle or both.
  • Regurgitant lesions ( Mainly Mitral and aortic regurgitation)
  • MVPS*
  • Congenital heart disese ( Mainly left to right shunts-ASD/VSD/etc)
  • Apart from this patients  with prosthetic heart valve, and pacemaker patients can feel their heart beats.
  •  Cardiac arrhythmia .Both tachycardia, and bradycardia . Ventricular ectopic beats are the very common cause .( It is often described as missed beat)

* Mitral valve prolapse, a very benign condition, over diagnosed in the last few decades raised considerable anxiety and palpitations for the patients (mainly after the diagnosis ! ).Now the cardiology community has sought to underplay this entity with strict diagnostic criteria.( Thickened mitral leaflet ,presence of MR both must be present to label a patient  as MVPS)

       Non cardiac

  • Physiological
  • Anxiety state
  • Anemia 

What is the relationship between ejection fraction and palpitation?

                                        Generally palpitation indicate a  hyper kinetic state of heart .The commonest cause of palpitation is  anxiety  state .This also happens in hyper dynamic circulations like anemia , fever, thyrotoxicosis, pregnancy etc . In all these situations palpitation indicate increased force of contraction which   generates high dp/dt(Rate of rise of ventricular pressure)  . So  the left ventricularejection fraction is normal or more than normal . So  presence of  palpitation could be an  indirect evidence  of reasonably good LV function.

    “Patients  with dilated cardiomyopathy or CHF rarely feel their heart beat during exertion , instead they have dyspnea  as the LV force of contraction is less”

What is the significance of palpitation that occur during rest ?

                              Palpitation occurring at rest indicate more often a  pathology.It is invariably due to an cardiac arrhytmia  either tachycardia or bradycardia. Intelligent patients can give accurate information about the  regularity of rhythm , any  extra beats or missed beats . Atrial fibrillation, VPDs  could be  diagnosed by history alone in them !

If palpitation  is associated with visible chest pulsation what is the likely diagnosis ?

    If  significant visible pulsation over chest wall  pulsations are seen   in young adults it could simply mean a hyper dynamic circulation and thin chest wall. Pulmonary arterial pulsations is not normally felt in left 2nd inter costal space.If felt one has to rule out shunt lesions like ASD or pulmonary hypertension.
                    “ASD is the commonest cause  of right ventricular  palpitation “  

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                            Amlodipine , the most popular anti hypertensive drug  used world wide has an very important action on coronary blood flow.When nifedipine was introduced three decades ago it was  known for it’s powerful anti anginal properties. Subsequently  amlodipine was introduced with almost similar action. But over the years, amlodipine was projected primarily as anti hypertensive drug and gradually many of the physicians are made to believe it is a drug that  should be used only if the blood pressure is high.The fear of reflex tachycardia in few was exaggerated.

                      

                              In fact a cross section of  today’s general physicians were queried  about amlodipine  and none of them acknowledged  using this drug as an anti anginal drug. And few of them went to the extent of withdrawing amlodipine if it was used for the purpose of angina relief !

Why amlodipine’s  anti anginal action is in doldrums ?

The single word answer is unfortunate!   Marketing bias ,coupled with  the fact  that mainstream cardiology texts have ignored this aspect.

Final message

                                    Amlodipine , can still be used as a antianginal drug especially  in a patient who has angina with associated bradycardia  , significant LV dysfunction . Some reserve amlodipine and nifedipine exclusively for vasospastic angina where beta blockers alone are theoretically contraindicated .

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