PSA: Coronary Artery Disease Sucks

As you may recall, I was on Cardiology Week recently. Despite the hard work, it was really quite rewarding. We have a fantastic Cardiology Unit, and it shows.

Anyway, because our country has a smorgasbord of infectious and lifestyle diseases, the majority of what we dealt with was acute coronary syndromes. One day in the cath-lab, the cardiologist had to inflate the balloon to 16.0 bar before he could reperfuse an artery. To give you an idea how hard that is, you inflate your car’s tyres to 2.0-2.5 bar.

Branches by Abby Diamond – click for source

In one case in the cath lab, they managed to aspirate a thrombus in a patient’s Left Anterior Descending coronary artery. It took so long, and I was expecting a massive clot. But it was so TINY. That such a tiny thing can cause such a massive problem! And it was absolutely amazing watching the monitor after reperfusion, and seeing good anatomy again. I kind of wish I had seen this in second year. I feel like I would have enjoyed the theory we were learning more, then.

Via The Heart Center of Chonnam National University Hospital, Gwangju, Korea – click image for source

In the whole week, I saw a single patient who had an acute coronary event who was NOT a smoker. ONE. (He had Familial Hypercholesterolaemia.) The cardiologist explained that we all probably have some degree of plaque in our coronaries, but it’s ruptured plaque that causes the big problems. And the plaque that is predisposed to rupturing is inflamed plaque. And smoking is a great way to inflame plaque.

By Daniel Alexander Hirst – click for source

The thing that struck me is how miserable cardiac disease can make one. So many of the patients were really depressed because they could not be as active as they were used to being. You cannot imagine how much people miss being able to walk to the bathroom without getting angina.

My colleagues and I, in our sleep-deprived state, got a new favourite phrase: “Keep those coronaries open.” Our hospital currently has more broken elevators than working ones, and whenever we saw people taking the stairs instead of waiting an age for the elevator, we nodded at each other. KEEP THOSE CORONARIES OPEN.

Seriously though. Do it.

Just an old poster in our cardiac unit. I really like it.



  1. Waqar Ahmed says:

    Very informative post.. Good luck

  2. Claire (BWB) says:

    It might suck but I really like that illustration!

    1. Hah, me too! Thanks!

  3. Well said 🙂 There was an interventional cardiologist at my medical school who kept track of all the vegetarians he had to do a cardiac catheterization on throughout his 30 year career. So far, that number was 0 as of a couple years ago… Makes you think! I’ve definitely changed my diet and habits since starting med school.

    1. Jean Sasson says:

      This was very interesting and reminds us all that our internal self reflects our habits perfectly — would be nice if we could see inside our bodies with our own eyes to view what harm we bring. I was a vegetarian for years, and then lapsed, but this has me thinking that I’ll go back to my healthier life-style. Thanks for all the informative posts!

      1. I like that – our internal self reflecting our habits. We should make a poster or something to that effect, heh. I wouldn’t be able to commit to being a vegetarian though, but I don’t eat that much meat, anyways. Thanks for stopping by!

      2. Jean Sasson says:

        Yes, we need to invent something simple to be able to see all that’s going on — some of us would love to do that, while others would run away. But, it would help most folks. I get so upset when my friends smoke as I KNOW what is going on with their lungs and other body parts — I’ve lost so many family members and friends to heavy smoking and it is just heartbreaking… I really enjoy your posts… Keep it up!

    2. Oh, that’s pretty cool. I saw a vegetarian who needed cardiac cath but he had familial hypercholesterolaemia, something that is quite common in certain South African families.But, I mean, still. I wouldn’t be able to be a vegetarian. I’m a pretty miserable eater as it is already, heh. But yeah, you could say I’ve started eating healthier since starting med school, too!

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