Friday, December 4, 2009

Cardiologist Appointment Wrap-Up

I saw the new cardiologist last Wednesday morning.  He specializes in heart rhythm issues.  He was very nice and explained a lot of possibilities.

Basically here's the summary: He gave me a heart monitor to wear for 30 days.  I'm wearing it right now.  If I have any palpitation events (I will try to make it happen, if possible), it will record the electrical signals for a minute.  Then I call a phone number and put the receiver on the playback speaker so they can study it.  When I see the doctor again in January, he'll have the study results and can tell me more about what particular kind of problems I'm having.

Based on my past heart history and test results, he is speculating that I have a certain kind of supraventricular tachycardia (SVT), but there are several subtypes.  He is further speculating that the kind I have is due to an electrical circuit that has grown on my particular heart (he says as much as two-thirds of the population have this circuit) and that in my case, it is causing these sporadic tachycardia events to occur.

There is an invasive study that can be done to confirm AND FIX this particular circuitry problem, and there are very few complications.  He gave me a handout about this electrophysiologic (EP) study, but basically, they go in through a vein and try to force the arrhythmia electrically to confirm the problem.  If they can confirm the problem, they can also fix it by breaking the circuit using radiofrequency catheter ablation.  This procedure uses a freezing (or heating) technique to make the tiny, but necessary change to stop the problem.  Some folks use heat, but he recommends using the freezing technique, because it's reversible if any mistake is made that might affect the rest of the heart area.  Heat is not.

There are also drugs that can be used to control arrhythmia, but they have side effects and all that jazz.  I'm not really in the market for adding more drugs and side effects to my repertoire.

Now, it is entirely my choice about what I do or whether I do anything at all about these palpitations.  IF he can confirm what kind of palpitations I'm having, and if they are the kind he thinks I'm having, there is no danger of damage to the heart or anything and it is more a matter of personal choice and a decision about whether these are interfering with my life or not.

Years ago, one of the episodes I remember having seemed to be triggered by my jumping rope on the driveway.  So yesterday, I grabbed my old jump rope and, believe it or not, I whipped out a few minutes of fast jumping in the garage, trying to get the heartbeat to flip.  As I predicted, my knee buckled, but I continued a little longer, trying to get some test evidence.  It was all for naught.

I've also been trying to trigger palpitations with some quick sniffs after being out in the cold.  I noticed that sometimes I'll have a short episode from doing that, but the heartbeat returns to normal after some coughing - usually only about a minute later.  I sniffed and sniffed and sniffed, but so far it hasn't worked.

It's odd to be wishing for an episode of tachycardia, but it would make wearing this stupid heart monitor worthwhile.  I hope something happens soon.

If  you're interested in learning more about these heart rhythm problems, here is a great page with animations that can help.