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HEADLINE: Why I needed a heart attack to save my l...


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  • HEADLINE: Why I needed a heart attack to save my l...

    [HEADLINE: Why I needed a heart attack to save my life (UK)]

    Author: Tim Stewart (---.dsl.dytnoh.ameritech.net)

    Date: 11-27-02 04:08

    Copyright 2002 Associated Newspapers Ltd.

    DAILY MAIL (London)

    November 26, 2002

    SECTION: Pg. 46

    LENGTH: 929 words

    HEADLINE: Why I needed a heart attack to save my life

    BYLINE: Martyn Halle


    AN injection to provoke a heart attack is the latest weapon in the war

    against heart disease. The treatment involves giving the heart a shot of pure

    alcohol, and has been pioneered by a British doctor.

    It is used for hypertrophic congestive cardiomyopathy, a thickening of the

    heart muscle which reduces blood flow between the chambers.

    The condition, which affects one in 500 people, is particularly linked to

    young athletes, for whom it is the most common cause of sudden death.

    This is because long-term sports training can lead to thickening of the

    heart wall, making it harder for blood to flow at a normal pressure, so

    increasing the risk of a heart attack in someone who already suffers from


    Sadly, many young athletes who die from the condition collapse unaware they

    have an abnormality, because it has remained undiagnosed.

    Until recently, the only way to treat the condition was to use open-heart

    surgery to cut away the thickening wall so the blood could pass easily again.

    This was not without risk, was expensive, and involved a twoweek stay in


    With the new injection, the patient stays awake under local anaesthetic and

    can go home a day after treatment. It is also much safer.

    The procedure was developed by Professor Ulrich Sigwart, who used to work at

    London's Royal Brompton Hospital. He discovered that scarring caused when

    someone has a heart attack actually reduced the presence of thickened muscle and

    increased blood flow in the heart.

    The treatment is so specialised that only a handful of cardiologists in the

    UK have sufficient skill to carry it out. Professor Sigwart regularly returns to

    the UK from a hospital in Switzerland to treat patients.

    'You have to be careful because you are dealing with 100pc alcohol. The aim

    of the treatment is to keep it in the heart,' he says.

    'If it escapes into the rest of the body, it can kill a patient or at the

    very least make them seriously ill.

    'But younger patients, in particular, aren't keen on having open-heart

    surgery and this is now a viable option for some.' Results of an eight-year

    study of patients treated using the alcohol method were published in the New

    England Journal of Medicine recently and showed that it was as good if not

    better than surgery in providing longterm relief.

    PROFESSOR Sigwart estimates that around 30 pc of patients who require

    surgery would benefit from the procedure. It involves inserting a catheter into

    a groin artery and then feeding it up through the aorta - the largest blood

    vessel - into the heart. A second catheter is then fed inside to deliver the


    The direct effect of injecting a toxic substance into the heart could be to

    stop it. So to ensure it continues to beat during the heart attack, a temporary

    pacemaker is inserted first.

    'It is relatively painless, although some patients report a twinge as the

    injection reaches the heart and causes the attack,' says Professor Sigwart.

    'It damages a section of the heart and kills off the excess muscle, causing

    a small, localised and highly specific area of heart damage in the target


    'As the muscle dies it is gradually transformed over a period of weeks into

    scar tissue, which causes it to shrink back and reduce the obstruction.' Alan

    Harris, a 43-year-old design engineer, recently had the alcohol treatment at the

    Royal Brompton. He says: 'I was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy 17 years ago when

    I went for a health check-up for a new job.

    'I was told I had a heart murmur which needed investigating and the

    cardiologist I saw told me I had cardiomyopathy.

    'Because I was otherwise fit and healthy, they decided to monitor me and it

    wasn't until seven years ago that I started getting symptoms that required more


    'They had put me on drugs to thin my blood and boost the flow through the

    heart. But my heart beat became erratic.' This condition can lead to heart

    attacks and strokes, so doctors have to consider other treatments if it cannot

    be controlled by drugs.

    'It wouldn't go away except after lengthy rest, so eventually it was decided

    that I should have a treatment called cardioversion,' says Alan.

    This is a simple procedure. It is performed to correct a fast or chaotic

    heart rhythm after medications fail.

    It sends an electrical shock to the heart through the chest wall, which

    momentarily stops the heart and its irregular rhythm.

    This usually disrupts the abnormal stimulus and allows the heart's normal

    rhythm to take over.

    Alan, who lives in Barton on Sea, Hampshire, with his wife Amanda, 43, had

    two treatments using cardioversion without success.

    'My condition was worsening and it was a choice between open-heart surgery

    and this new technique to reduce the thickening of the heart muscle,' he says.

    'It was almost painless. I felt a sharp twinge in my chest ever so briefly - as

    the alcohol went into the heart - but then everything was fine.

    'The doctors were reassuring and I knew my heart would continue to beat

    because of the pacemaker. The treatment lasted only half an hour and I was home

    after two days.

    'Since the operation I've felt a lot better. I used to get out of breath

    going upstairs. Now I am able to cope without a problem.

    'I am also allowed to exercise, which my condition wouldn't allow before the


    Cardiomyopathy doesn't go away and it is possible for heart muscle to

    thicken again, but the evidence so far is that patients having alcohol treatment

    are less likely to need a repeat procedure.


    LOAD-DATE: November 27, 2002


    [Re: HEADLINE: Why I needed a heart attack to save my life (UK)]

    Author: Linda, Bd of Directors (---.wmnsmd.adelphia.net)

    Date: 11-27-02 06:27

    Tim, Thanks for being a watchdog for much of the recent publications. How do you pick up so many of them? If these things go on the message board, it offers a chance for all to comment, ask questions, and clarify issues. We must all remember how very important it is to be very specific to each person's condition and needs for treatment. No treatment is without risk, and the person performing the treatment is key to success. We must be cautious to remember that the muscle thickness is only one part of HCM and removing the thickness still leaves the underlying problem of muscle function/dysfuction. Remember also, how often we see retractions to what was thought to be the perfect med/treatment at the time. Time and study will continue to help us discover the best options with the least risk. Meanwhile, let's all remember - ask questions specific to our own situation, discover all options, be realistic about expectations. Once again, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. These articles profile one person who was selected very carefully, and can mislead one to think it is an option for all. For anyone interested in obtaining more info on this procedure, please contact the HCMA office and you will be provided with the latest and most accurate information available. Lisa is in constant contact with the experts. Linda


    [Re: HEADLINE: Why I needed a heart attack to save my life (UK)]

    Author: Erica (---.biz.dsl.gtei.net)

    Date: 11-27-02 06:31

    It was mentioned in an earlier posting that an update was provided about the procedure (ablation) at AHA. It was also mentioned that this update would be posted in the next newsletter! Any idea when it will reach our mailboxes? Looking forward to reading all that was learned about HCM at the AHA! : )

    ~ Erica
    NOTE: This is a post from the previous forum message board.

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