A number of cardiologists seem to be revisiting the warnings of their late colleague Dr. Bernard Lown, who often cautioned physicians against using “words that hurt“ – specifically, the name heart FAILURE * (what he termed “doom forecasting”). Imagine being a patient hearing for the first time the words, “You have heart FAILURE.” A terrifying – and worse, often inaccurate – name. I’ve been told that changing the name of this condition would be impossible. But a recent editorial in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology has suddenly offered a glimmer of hope.
When McMaster University cardiologist Dr. Harriette Van Spall asked her Twitter followers recently to offer topic suggestions for the upcoming Heart Failure Summit, I responded with a suggestion of my own:
“Please please please can we STOP calling this condition heart FAILURE?” .
If you’re a heart patient living with stable angina, the ISCHEMIA clinical trial presented at the 2019 American Heart Association Scientific Sessions is all about you. Cardiologist Dr. John Mandrola described the impact of this study in his Medscape column like this:
“CARDIOLOGY CHANGES TODAY!” .
But realistically, does one study have the power to actually change the practice of cardiology? .
Continue reading “ISCHEMIA study: that blockage isn’t a time bomb in your chest”
UPDATE: I’m very sad to say that Dr. Bernard Lown, pioneering cardiologist, humanitarian, and founder of the Lown Institute, died on February 16, 2021 at the age of 99, pre-deceased by Louise, his wife of 73 years, survived by three children, five grandchildren and one great-grandchild.
“From my earliest days in medicine, I have struggled against the prevailing model of health care” is how the pioneering cardiologist Dr. Bernard Lown summed up his long and impressive career as a rebel.
Dr. Lown was Professor of Cardiology Emeritus at Harvard, but to me he was always the physician I loved to quote here on Heart Sisters – as in my blog post title, “Why Aren’t More Doctors Like Dr. Bernard Lown?“ . Continue reading “Bed rest and other kinds of cardiac overtreatment”
Imagine your mechanic telling you that your brakes are failing. Would you voluntarily get behind the wheel of that car – and then happily drive it home? Of course you wouldn’t. Yet right now, as you are reading these words, doctors around the world in a medical office or hospital clinic somewhere out there are casually saying out loud the words “HEART FAILURE” to diagnose people who will leave that place feeling scared to death. . Continue reading “Would you drive your car if its brakes were “failing”?”
If you were suddenly diagnosed with heart failure, you would first of all be utterly horrified by hearing those words “heart failure” – which brings me to the eternal question: when are cardiologists going to come up with a better name for this common condition in which a person’s heart has trouble pumping blood as well as it should? (See also: “When Doctors Use Words That Hurt“)
I hope that the second thing that happens after you hear those dreadful words is that somebody will immediately show you this beautiful photo (above) of twin sisters Shaun Rivers and Kim Ketter, both nurses from Richmond, Virginia. They were each diagnosed with heart failure during the same week in 2009 when the twins were just 40 years of age.
Now compare the twins’ photo (and its accompanying text from the American Heart Association) with something that I hope you will never, ever see upon hearing that frightening diagnosis:
Continue reading “Two ways to portray heart failure. One of them works.”