Almost 200 years ago, newspapers reported on the outcome of a surgical amputation performed in London by Robert Liston (apparently known as the “fastest knife in the West End” – because speed was important in pre-anaesthesia 1829). Here’s how this was described:
“The operation was successful, but the patient died.”
We don’t know much about the unfortunate patient who went under the knife that day (thus making that ironic description famous in medical circles). But fast forward through the centuries to a duo of modern researchers who wondered why some patients who are undergoing successful cardiac surgery end up having poor outcomes, too. .
Heart patients are like all other patients in one major way: we have important quality-of-life questions for our doctors, like: “How long will it take after my _______ (insert name of medical procedure) before I’m feeling well enough to _______ (insert whatever it is you want to get back to doing: drive, fly, golf, have sex, return to work, etc.)?”
When the Emergency Department physician misdiagnosed my “widow maker” heart attack as acid reflux, I actually felt relieved at first. I’d much rather have indigestion than heart disease, thank you very much. His confident misdiagnosis meant I was temporarily willing to ignore the obvious cardiac symptoms that had propelled me to Emergency that morning: central chest pain, nausea, sweating and pain down my left arm.
I’ve been thinking a lot aboutawareness-raising lately because of a bombshell report(1) from the 2019 American Heart Association National Survey released this month. Among other completely demoralizing findings, this report found that women’sawareness of their most common heart attack symptomshas significantly declined from a prior survey done 10 years earlier. How is that even possible? . . . Continue reading “Women’s heart disease: an awareness campaign fail?”→
It seems a cruel irony: the very thing that may have saved your life after a frightening cancer diagnosis is the same thing that can ultimately endanger your heart. I first heard of the known link between cancer treatments and later heart disease when I was a text editor of the palliative care textbook called Medical Care of the Dying.1 I learned about patients with end-stage heart disease caused by their cancer treatments, sometimes decades earlier. . . Continue reading “When cancer treatment damages your heart”→