Posts Tagged ‘Angiogram’

Having been the rather unwilling participant in four procedures, you might think it odd that I believe angiograms to be necessary.

In the end, however, it was a specific type of angiogram that ultimately confirmed my diagnosis of Coronary Microvascular Disease.  I was given a Coronary Reactivity Test which is an angiography procedure specifically designed to examine the blood vessels in the heart and how they respond to different medications.

Recently, both the Wall Street Journal and NPR posted some very convincing arguments as to why the traditional angiogram is no longer the ‘gold standard’ in heart testing.  And quite frankly, from my experience, I would have to agree.

I had my first angiogram in 2005.  Having been rushed to the ER with chest pains, I was given the full range of testing.  However, when my angiogram came back ‘clear’, I was sent home rather unceremoniously; almost made to feel bad that I put them through the trouble.

My second and third angiograms happened under much the same circumstances.  Continued chest pain, trips to the ER and confounded doctors who could offer no explanation of continued chest pain without clogged arteries.

However, my fourth angiogram was the one that made the difference.  This specialized take on the traditional angiogram proved to be the breakthrough needed to finally diagnose my condition.

How It Affects You

While risk factors for men and women are the same, women tend to have more coronary microvascular disease.  This dysfunction of the small arteries lies in the heart muscle itself and cannot be seen on a traditional angiogram.

Perhaps the problem is not in how often angiograms are ordered, but in the way in which they are administered.

For many women, the road to diagnosis is a long one.  It would be a wonderful thing to leave the cardiologist’s office with a correct diagnosis on your first visit.  Since that’s not going to happen, we must prepare ourselves for the gamut of testing bound to be in our future.

What better way to prepare yourself than to know what your testing options are?

Click here for more information regarding Cedars-Sinai Women’s Heart Center and Coronary Reactivity Testing.


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As I exited the Cath Lab, I felt a sense of relief wash over me as I realized the procedure was over.  An angiogram with adenosine-stress cardiac magnetic resonance imaging isn’t the most comfortable procedure to endure; especially if you have to ‘use the bathroom’ twice during the procedure.

Wheeled on a gurney into recover, my two doctors, Drs. C. Noel Bairey Merz and Chrisandra Shufelt followed.  Once I came to a stop, Dr. Bairey-Merz leaned in and said, “Well, the good news is we know what’s wrong with your heart”.  That’s all I needed to hear.  While the doctors continued to talk, I didn’t hear a word.  Ten minutes into it I looked at Dr. Shufelt and asked her to promise me that she would find my husband and son in the waiting room and explain to them what I couldn’t comprehend.

This was the culmination of five years of searching for a doctor who could find what was wrong with my heart.  As a young woman experiencing chest pain, I was told time and again that ‘I was too young’ for heart disease or perhaps I needed to ‘lower the stress’ in my life.  In actuality, all I needed was a doctor with the skill set and mind set to listen to me objectively.

That is exactly what I found in Dr. Bairey-Merz and her staff at the Cedars-Sinai Women’s Heart Center.  These fine doctors have been leading the way in women’s cardiac research for several years now.  Under their care, I am now participating in my third Research Study.  Each study I’ve participated in has greatly bettered my situation.

As of December 2007, I have had the piece of mind in knowing the name of my condition;  formerly known as ‘Cardiac Syndrome X’,  better known as Coronary Microvascular Disease.  I can honestly say that, had it not been for these fine doctors and the research they’ve done, I wouldn’t be telling you this story right now.

It is now my focus in life to get the word out about Ischemic Heart Disease and where women in a similar situation can get the care they so desperately need.  There are a lot of us out there; they are waiting to be found.

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Why in the world would a person choose to admit herself into a hospital to undergo scary tests on her heart?  What!??!  This doesn’t sound like fun?  Well, you are right there.  It’s not fun.  In fact, it sucks.  But, if the results will one day contribute to the ‘betterment of womankind’, count me in. 

That’s the line my cardiologist used to get me onboard for the first Clinical Study.  I say ‘first’ because, as it stands, I’m currently involved in my third study with the good folks at Cedars-Sinai Women’s Heart Center.

It’s probably the altruistic attitude of my doctor and all those I’ve met there that has prompted me to share what I’ve learned with you all.  But, I digress.  What we will discuss today is two of the major cardiac procedures I underwent when participating in a Study.  But first…

 Why Choose To Participate

Interesting question.  I imagine that for each of us, the answer would be different.  Are there holes in your diagnosis?  If so, are you willing to try new therapies?  Are you near enough to a research hospital that you could participate?  How will this affect you and your family?  The list goes on and on.  Let’s just say, however, for the sake of argument, that you do enlist in a Cardiac Study.  Here is what you can expect from my limited experience.


You will undergo tests to make sure that you meet the criteria for participation.  Included will be a brief physical exam, a review of your medical history and a blood draw. 

Depending upon the type of  Study you’re involved in, you may have to undergo a Coronary Angiogram.  The link provides all the details; what is done, what you can expect as far as recovery time, etc.

For my second Study, I underwent a Cardiac MRI.  This test is certainly a bit more state of the art.  If you are prone to claustrophobia, there are MRI machines with openings, which help a lot.

I know that ‘womankind’ will certainly benefit from the finding in the Clinical Studies I participated in.  Even now, my symptoms have significantly decreased because of the findings of and adjustments made to my medication.  But, as with anything, its good to know what you’re getting into before you get involved.  Don’t you agree?

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