Is it finally time to change the name ‘heart FAILURE’?

by Carolyn Thomas      @HeartSisters

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?”    .

Continue reading “Is it finally time to change the name ‘heart FAILURE’?”

ISCHEMIA study: that blockage isn’t a time bomb in your chest

by Carolyn Thomas     @HeartSisters  

If you’re a heart patient living with stable angina, the ISCHEMIA clinical trial presented last weekend 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”

Bed rest and other kinds of cardiac overtreatment

by Carolyn Thomas    @HeartSisters  

“From my earliest days in medicine, I have struggled against the prevailing model of health care” is how the pioneering cardiologist Dr. Bernard Lown sums up his long and impressive career as a rebel.

Dr. Lown is now Professor of Cardiology Emeritus at Harvard, but to me he is the physician I love 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”

Would you drive your car if its brakes were “failing”?

by Carolyn Thomas      @HeartSisters

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”?”

Two ways to portray heart failure. One of them works.

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  EXAMPLE #1: Sisters and heart failure patients Shaun Rivers (left) and Kimberly Ketter

by Carolyn Thomas     @HeartSisters

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.”

Kindness in health care: missing in action?

by Carolyn Thomas    @HeartSisters 

I don’t remember much of what happened during that fateful visit to the Emergency Department.  I remember the on-call cardiologist saying something to me about my “significant heart disease”. After hearing those words, I felt so stunned that – although I could see his lips moving and could hear sounds coming out of his mouth – he may as well have been speaking Swahili.  (Doctors, please remember this in the future when delivering life-altering diagnoses to your patients!)

What I do vividly remember, however, is a small but profound act of kindness later that day when I was brought to my bed in the CCU (the cardiac intensive care unit). Continue reading “Kindness in health care: missing in action?”