Entries in Heart (57)


Learn the Warning Signs of “Holiday Heart Syndrome”

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- People tend to overindulge with eating and drinking over the holidays, and this causes a rise in cases of “holiday heart syndrome” or an irregular heartbeat, according to MedPage Today.

Warning signs of “holiday heart syndrome” include the following: palpitations, fainting and chest pains.

This can occur in otherwise healthy people, who overeat and consume too much alcohol. Caffeine and lack of sleep can also contribute to an irregular heartbeat.

Partyers, who become patients at emergency rooms, often complain that their hearts feel like they’re racing out of their chests.

Intravenous fluids usually solves the problem, and sometimes medication is required.

In rare cases, “holiday heart syndrome” can pose the threat of stroke or blood clots.

Taking it easy on the bar and buffet tables and this will help you avoid a trip to the hospital.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Baby Born with Heart Outside Her Chest Saved by Surgery

Photodisc/Thinkstock(HOUSTON) -- Five weeks ago, Audrina Cardenas was born with her heart outside her body. The condition is usually fatal. But Audrina has survived, and doctors are hopeful after they performed surgery to tuck her heart back where it belongs.

Audrina had a rare congenital malformation known as "ectopia cordis," where the heart is abnormally located either partially or totally outside the chest. Audrina was born on Oct. 15 with her heart exposed.

Eight babies out of every million are born with her condition and 90 percent of the eight are either stillborn or die within the first three days of life.

A statement by Texas Children's Hospital in Houston, where Audrina was born and operated on, said that on Oct. 16 "a multidisciplinary team of surgeons at Texas Children's saved Audrina's life during a miraculous six hour open-heart surgery where they reconstructed her chest cavity to make space for the one-third of her heart that was outside of her body.


Audrina's mother, Ashley Cardenas of Odessa, Texas, told ABC News she learned of the baby's condition when she was 16 weeks pregnant.

"I was told that it is a very rare condition and that the survival rates are really low and that if she did survive they don't know what kind of life she will have," she said.

"They gave me the option to terminate the pregnancy, continue with the pregnancy and do something called comfort care at the time of delivery, where instead of doing anything painful to her or do surgery they let you spend as much time with her until she passes, or opt for a high-risk surgery to help repair the heart," said Cardenas.

Cardenas decided to carry on with the pregnancy despite low chances of Audrina's survival.

"As soon as I made my decision to continue with the pregnancy, the physicians in Midland referred me to Texas Children's Hospital where a team of miracle workers provided the specialized treatment and care my baby and I both needed," she said.

"This risky operation on such an uncommon condition required specialists from a variety of care teams including cardiovascular surgery, plastic surgery and general pediatric surgery," Dr. Charles D. Fraser, surgeon-in-chief at Texas Children's Hospital and professor of surgery and pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine (BCM) told ABC News.

"I have only seen this condition a few times in my career and these are always very tricky cases; in fact, many of these babies do not survive ... Audrina is a true fighter and we are so excited that this was a good outcome," he said.

"She's a fortunate child to have gotten through difficult circumstances. She is a very strong baby and is also fortunate because her other systems are normal," said Dr. Fraser, who added that it was promising that she still is showing improvements.

"We're not definitive about her prognosis, but so far, so good. We are very optimistic about the long-term prognosis. The baby will probably have to have operations in the future. Her sternum is about half formed but these are things we can deal with," said Fraser.

"Despite Audrina's misplaced heart, she was born with no other syndromes or genetic conditions that would cause additional stress or complications on her heart," Dr. Carolyn Altman, a pediatric cardiologist at Texas Children's Hospital and associate professor of pediatrics at BCM, told ABC News.

Dr. Larry Hollier, chief of plastic surgery at Texas Children's, played a key role in the surgery. "After reducing the heart into the chest we needed to mobilize the surrounding soft skin tissue to cover the heart itself to get it back in," he said when explaining his part of the surgery.

Audrina is still at Texas Children's for an open-ended stay, said Dr. Fraser.

"It would be a great blessing if she can celebrate Christmas with all of us at home," said Audrina's mother. "I want to tell the team at the hospital, 'Thank you for everything.' If it wasn't for them and the grace of God she wouldn't be here," she said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Breast Cancer Radiation Therapy Not Linked to Long-Term Heart Complications

Photodisc/Thinkstock(BOSTON) -- A new study has lessened concerns that early-stage breast cancer patients could be increasing their risk for heart complications from radiation therapy.

Researchers observed 50 patients with stage 1 and stage 2 breast cancer who either underwent radiation therapy (26 patients) to conserve breast tissue or a modified radical mastectomy (24 patients) that involves removing the breast.  They found that more than 25 years after treatment, both groups were at similar levels for heart function and for heart complications.

Researchers planned to present the study's findings Monday at the annual meeting of the American Society for Radiation Oncology in Boston.

The study's lead author, Dr. Charles Simone II, a radiation oncologist at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, attributes the findings to safer, more precise radiation therapy available now.

"We are pleased to find that early-stage breast cancer patients treated with modern radiation therapy treatment planning techniques do not have an increased risk of long-term cardiac toxicity and that breast-conservation therapy with radiation should remain a standard treatment option," Simone said in a news release.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Man’s Failing Heart Heals Itself on Day of Emergency Transplant

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A miraculous thing happened the day Michael Crowe was set to receive a potentially life-saving heart transplant.  Doctors had determined the surgery would be ineffective, but his heart suddenly started beating again.

Crowe, a 23-year-old pharmacy student from Omaha, Neb., had been diagnosed with acute myocarditis, or inflammation of the heart muscle, likely caused by a viral infection.  When his mother brought him to the emergency room at his local hospital on Aug. 14, doctors found his heart was only functioning at about 25 percent efficiency.  The hospital referred him to the Nebraska Medical Center, and by the time he was admitted to the intensive care unit there, his heart’s efficiency had dropped below 10 percent.

“If he had come to us any later, his heart would have just stopped,” Dr. John Um, Surgical Director of Heart Transplantation at Nebraska Medical Center told ABC News.

Doctors hooked Crowe up to a heart-lung machine that would essentially act as his heart for him, pumping blood throughout his body.

“When the heart stops, that’s defined as clinical death,” Dr. Um said.  “In this case, his body only stayed alive because the machine was pumping his blood for him.”

Crowe was immediately placed on a list for an emergency heart transplant, and remained on the heart-lung machine in a medically induced coma until an appropriate donor heart became available.

After nearly three weeks, a heart was found.  The good news was followed by bad, though: tests revealed he had contracted a blood infection.  Doctors said he probably would not survive the transplant surgery.

About an hour later, one of his doctors noticed something strange -- his blood pressure was going up, something that would be impossible if his body was only receiving blood through the machine.

“His heart started working again on its own,” Dr. Um told ABC.  “The left side of his heart was pumping blood again.  The right side was still weak, so we slowly eased him off the machine.  At this point, he was in pretty good shape.”

Dr. Um said this was the first time one of his patients has been on an external heart-lung machine for this long before his heart started beating again.

“He’s home now, doing great,” Dr. Um said.  “He’s really, really lucky.”

In the simplest terms, Dr. Um explained, the heart got sick, triggering an immune response that shut the heart down to fight the infection, and eventually healed itself.  Technology kept Crowe’s body alive while his heart healed.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Unnecessary Heart Surgery Can Be Dangerous

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- When The New York Times reported Tuesday that doctors at HCA Health Care hospitals in Florida might have performed cardiac procedures on patients who didn't need them, it raised questions about the risks of such unnecessary surgery.

ABC News' Medical Unit breaks down the risks of such procedures for you, step by step:

Cardiac Catheterization

Since cardiac catheterization is a diagnostic test, doctors tend to disagree about when it is necessary to subject patients to it. As such, this area is a bit more "gray" than unnecessary stents, doctors told ABC News.

"If you have a massive heart attack, almost everyone would agree you should undergo cardiac catheterization," Dr. Deepak Bhatt, who directs the Integrated Interventional Cardiovascular Program at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, told ABC News. "That's one end of the spectrum where really there's little room for debate."

On the other end, there are symptom-free patients who perhaps have abnormal stress-test results. Or maybe they're having chest pains in the emergency room but are only experiencing indigestion. Either way, they're told they need the test.

When a patient undergoes cardiac catheterization, a wire tube, or sheath, is inserted into the arteries in the patient's groin or wrist area (femoral or radial arteries). The sheath carries equipment up to the heart, but before it can get there, the patient faces an initial set of risks:

  • Bleeding from the artery in the groin or wrist.
  • Blood clot in the arm or leg, which could cause the patient to lose a limb.
  • Bleeding into the belly (if the artery near the groin is punctured too high).

Next, the doctors thread the sheath up the artery toward the heart, resulting in the second set of risks:

  • Sheath disrupts plaque in the arteries, causing a clot.
  • Equipment punctures artery walls.


Once doctors have threaded their equipment inside the body, they can choose whether to insert a stent, which is a metal mesh tube that works with a balloon to expand and open up a narrow artery. If a stent is inserted, the patient faces another set of immediate risks:

  • Equipment disrupts plaque in coronary artery, clogging a blood vessel and blocking oxygen from the heart.
  • Stent punctures coronary artery.

Regardless of whether a stent is necessary, Bhatt said one or two out of every 100 patients undergoing stent surgery experiences major complications, such as heart attack or stroke, even death. He said the risk is higher in people who have heart disease, but even for patients who don't need stents, the risk isn't "zero."

Bhatt said there's less than a one percent chance a patient would experience complications from plaque breaking off and traveling downstream in the same artery to cause a heart attack.

Once patients make it through stent surgery, they also face long-term risks as the body reacts to the foreign object.

  • Stents can develop blood clots.
  • Stents accumulate scar tissue over a period of months.

The blood clot risk is rare at this stage, however, occurring less than one percent of the time, Bhatt said.

Less than 10 percent of patients now develop scar tissue in stents -- before 2003, when stent technology was less developed, the risk was greater.

What's the Takeaway?

Although invasive heart procedures can be lifesaving and worth the risk for patients who have heart disease, patients who don't need cardiac catheterization or stents are exposed to unnecessary risks before and after surgery.

"You're worse off than you would have otherwise been," Bhatt said, adding that he didn't believe there was an "epidemic" of unnecessary heart procedures.

[Watch this video for tips on how to avoid unnecessary heart procedures.]

Adelman said it's one thing to order unnecessary blood work or brain imaging tests, but dangerous to order unnecessary invasive procedures.

"Ordering an unnecessary MRI is very expensive and wasteful, but it doesn't hurt anybody," he said. But unneeded cardiac procedures can cause strokes, heart attacks and death. "We're willing to accept those risks when it's necessary. ... When it's medically unnecessary, it's not only expensive, but it's terrible malpractice."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Study: Kids with Healthy Hearts and Lungs Get Better Grades?

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(ORLANDO, Fla.) -- It's August already and as summer vacation winds down toward the new school term, a new study reveals the link between good grades and good health. Students with healthy hearts and lungs fare better in math and reading, according to research presented at the American Psychological Association's annual convention.
Researchers studied some 1,200 students from five Texas middle schools whose average age was 12. The participants were evaluated for cardio-vascular fitness, academic performance, self-esteem and social support.
The study authors found that the only consistent factor that had a positive effect on their grades was cardio-vascular fitness.   

“Cardiorespiratory fitness was the only factor that we consistently found to have an impact on both boys’ and girls’ grades on reading and math tests,” study co-author Trent A. Petrie, PhD, professor of psychology and director of the Center for Sport Psychology at the University of North Texas said in a statement. “This provides more evidence that schools need to re-examine any policies that have limited students’ involvement in physical education classes.”
The study also showed that students perform better in reading when family and friends provide reliable social support to help in problem solving and dealing with emotions.  The results were not the same for math, however, where cardiorespiratory fitness was the only factor related to positive performance.

Though the study does not show a clear causal relationship between fitness and academics (students who are motivated to be physically fit could actually just be students who possess academic motivation as well), the authors conclude that the relationship of physical fitness and academic performance is one that is independent of other factors, and schools should work to develop better fitness programs.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Late Shift Boosts Heart Attack, Stroke Risk

Digital Vision/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- More bad news for late-shift workers: Their odd hours may be raising their risk of heart attack and stroke.

So says a new, large-scale study in the British Medical Journal that adds these two problems -- which fit into a broader category known as vascular disease -- to the previously known risks of shift work. Previous research had suggested that working the graveyard shift, the swing shift or any irregular shift other than the traditional 9-to-5 is linked to high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity.

British and Canadian researchers analyzed the findings of 34 studies that included more than two million people who had work schedules including anything other than regular daytime hours. They found that shift work was linked to a 23 percent increased risk of heart attack and a 5 percent increased risk of stroke. Those working night shifts seemed to be at the highest risk.

The study authors said it pays for workers to know that their jobs may put them at increased risk.

"The increased risk of vascular disease apparent in shift workers, regardless of its explanation, suggests that people who do shift work should be vigilant about risk factor modification," they wrote in the report.

A variety of factors -- not just the shift work itself -- could be culprit in increasing the risk of heart attack and stroke for people in those occupations. A lack of sleep, poor eating habits and lower levels of physical activity could plague those who work irregular hours and drive up the risk of vascular disease.

Dr. Robert Bonow, professor of medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and past president of the American Heart Association, said it's possible that people working jobs requiring shift work may be economically disadvantaged and have less access to health care -- two factors generally associated with unfavorable health outcomes.

However, the study authors noted that the increased risk of vascular events was still present even when they accounted for things like unhealthy eating, smoking and socioeconomic status -- evidence that something about the nature of shift work other than poor health behaviors might be at play.

But what could it be? One possibility is disruption in circadian rhythm, a feature inherent in shift work. These disruptions can certainly have an effect on heart rate and blood pressure -- two measures intimately tied to vascular health, said Dr. Carl Lavie, a cardiologist at Ochsner Medical Center in New Orleans.

Since shift work is a necessary evil for more than a third of the working population, it is unreasonable to think that everyone can simply change their schedules.

"My advice would be to exercise and make sure their fitness is at a high level, and then I'd treat their risk factors vigorously," Lavie said. He added that if you are a shift worker it is important to recognize that treatments you might be getting for blood pressure control, weight control and cholesterol may be more important for you than someone at a lower risk.

Bonow agreed. "There's somewhat of a signal here, and people who do shift work should be aware that their risk factors should be identified and managed."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Heart Weakness Common Yet Undiagnosed in Some Older Patients

Comstock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Older people living with heart abnormalities that could lead to heart failure may have never had those abnormalities diagnosed, meaning they miss out on treatments that could help, according to a new study.  But deciding whether someone would benefit from taking these drugs in the last stages of life is important too, doctors say.

The heart naturally gets weaker as people age, but Bernard Keavney, a professor of cardiology at Newcastle University in Tyne, England, and the study's lead author, said scientists don't often study heart failure or the best way to treat it in the very old.

"We can only treat heart failure if we know it's there," Keavney said.

Keavney and his team went to the homes of about 375 people ages 87 to 89 living in northeast England, armed with equipment to test their heart function.  They found that about one-third of them had a heart with a reduced ability to pump blood, called a left ventricular systolic dysfunction.  Another 20 percent had a diastolic dysfunction -- heart muscles that could not relax enough to allow the heart's chambers to fill with blood, keeping the heart from pumping enough blood to the rest of the body.

People aren't born with these abnormalities, but they increase as people age and develop cardiovascular diseases, such as high blood pressure and coronary artery disease.  They can also lead to heart failure, a condition in which the heart can't pump blood effectively to the rest of the body.

For 26 percent of the people in the study, the problems had never been diagnosed by a physician.

The findings were published Tuesday in the journal Heart.

It's not clear why these people had never gotten a diagnosis.  Doctors say it could be that they simply didn't realize there was a problem and may have thought their symptoms, such as shortness of breath and fatigue, were simply part of old age.

"Likely because the level of activity in these patients in these kinds of home care settings is low, they don't stress their heart enough to know that there is a problem," said Dr. Robert Myerburg, a professor of medicine and physiology at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.

About 5.8 million Americans have heart failure, according the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute, and as greater numbers of people reach old age in many Western countries, it's possible that that number will grow.

Keavney said because greater numbers of people survive heart attacks, these kinds of heart abnormalities may increase.

"There would have been people in previous years who would have come into the hospital after a heart attack and died from it.  Now more may survive, but they're going home with a weakened heart," he said.

Doctors say although the symptoms of these heart abnormalities seem pretty common for older people, it's important that they not be dismissed as simply signs of "old age."

"There is no clinical diagnosis of 'old age,'" said Dr. Clyde Yancy, chief of cardiology at Northwestern Memorial Hospital and a past president of the American Heart Association.  "We should keep our antenna up at all times for treatable diseases that may reduce symptoms and improve the quality of life."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


With Each Operation, Artificial Hearts Show More Promise

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Not long ago, patients diagnosed with heart failure would have faced a grim prognosis, as there would have been few options available to sustain them until a donor heart became available.  But that may be changing.

On June 21, physicians at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston announced that they had performed the first successful artificial heart transplant in New England for a patient who had advanced heart failure.

"It's a regional milestone," said Dr. Gregory Couper, surgical director of the heart transplant program at Brigham and Women's.  "This is the first implantation of an artificial heart in a patient needing a heart transplant in New England."

Although this is the first transplant in New England, other artificial heart transplants have already been performed around the United States and internationally.  In fact, artificial hearts are being manufactured by a few companies, one of which is testing their device at 30 sites across the country.

More than five million people in the United States currently have heart failure.  In heart failure, the heart muscles weaken such that the heart is unable to pump a sufficient amount of blood through the body.  If the heart failure is left untreated, then other organs, including the kidneys, begin to fail.

Physicians will first attempt to manage heart failure patients with medications that help get rid of excess fluid in the body while also controlling blood pressure.  For the 50,000 to 100,000 patients with advanced heart failure who cannot be treated with medications, a device known as the left ventricular assist device (LVAD) may be helpful.  LVADs are devices that replace the function of the failing heart, and artificially pump blood throughout the body's circulatory system.

But in some cases even LVADs may not be effective in helping heart function. That is where artificial hearts come into play. The artificial heart acts as a bridge therapy -- a temporary measure until a patient can get off the organ donor waiting list and receive a heart transplant.  

About 2,000 heart transplants are performed in the U.S. each year, although thousands more -- if enough donors were available -- could potentially benefit from them.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Baby Saved by Smallest Artificial Heart

Alessandro Di Meo/EPA(ROME) -- An artificial heart the size of a pinky finger kept a 16-month-old baby alive for nearly two weeks while he waited for a heart transplant.

The Italian baby, whose name has not been released, had dilated cardiomyopathy, a disease that stretched the muscular walls of his heart so thin they could no longer contract to pump blood. He needed a transplant. But without a suitable donor on the horizon, doctors had to improvise.

“This patient, he was a mascot for us,” said surgeon Antonio Amodeo of Rome’s Bambino Gesu Hospital, explaining how the baby had been in the hospital’s intensive care unit since he was one month old. “I said, ‘He cannot die; I have to do something for him.’”

Amodeo and his team had already tried a Berlin Heart, a scaled-down version of the left ventricular assist device once worn by former Vice President Dick Cheney. But the device, with its tubes that run outside the body, triggered a risky infection. So they turned to a tiny, 11-gram implantable pump invented by American entrepreneur Dr. Robert Jarvik that had only been tested on animals.

“I said, ‘Dr, Jarvik, please help me. I don’t want to lose this patient,” Amodeo said, adding that the hospital needed special permission from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Italian Ministry of Health before proceeding with the unapproved device. “We knew there were only a few animal experiments, but we knew it could probably work.”

And it did work, keeping the baby alive for 13 days before electrical problems forced the doctors to switch back to the Berlin Heart. Two days later, a donor heart became available.

“It’s incredible,” said Amodeo, adding that the transplant, which took place in April, was successful and the baby will be discharged any day now. “We are all extremely happy because the little boy will be in his mother’s hands. He’s going to be fine.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio