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Beating Heart Disease: Failing The Stress Test

Patch editor Tom Abate underwent coronary artery bypass surgery to treat heart disease. This is the fourth in a series of blogs sharing his journey from diagnosis to recovery.

 

(This is the fourth in a series of blog entries on heart disease. The prior installments are in the Patch archives.)

Events began to proceed swiftly the morning I showed up at the office of cardiologist Aditya Jain. It was Monday, July 2nd. I stripped to the waist, as ordered, and a technician attached a dozen electrodes to my chest.

I was taking a treadmill stress test to record the heart’s performance when it is being exercised. The treadmill began at ground level then rose higher. As it gained elevation, my breathing became labored.

“How long does the test last?” I asked.

That was apparently the signal to stop. The technician had me lie on an examining table and took a sonogram of my beating heart. This is the same technology used to get an image of a fetus during pregnancy.

The sonogram sent off alarms. As I put my shirt on I asked what was wrong.

The bottom chamber of my heart should have been pumping faster due to the exertion of keeping up with the treadmill. It was beating too slowly for the stress, suggesting that it wasn’t getting enough blood due to blockages in the arteries that supply the heart itself.

Normally the treadmill test would have been done one day and the results would be reviewed at a follow up appointment. But the technician made sure I saw Dr. Jain that same day.

Dr. Jain was certain something was amiss and wanted to proceed to the next level of testing. It was an angiogram, a procedure in which a radioactive dye is introduced into the blood to show the flow – or constriction -- of fluid.

The soonest we could schedule the angiogram was Thursday, July 5.

If it disclosed blockages that could be repaired with stents, Dr. Jain said he would do that procedure at the same time, unblocking the heart arteries and restoring blood flow.

The alternative would be surgery.

I left a bit apprehensive but still convinced the trouble was minor, and easily repairable and that I would be soon on the mend.

(Follow the series in the Patch archives.)

 

 

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