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Cardiovascular / Cardiology

Congestive heart failure: Things to know

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While congestive heart failure that sound like it does not actually mean that the heart has collapsed. Cardiac failure, however, is a severe condition in which the heart does not properly pump blood throughout the body.

We depend on the heart’s pumping action to provide nutrient- and oxygen- blood to every cell within the body. When cells aren’t well nourished, the body can not function properly.

When the heart is weakened and can’t supply enough oxygen to the body, the patient is exhausted and breathless. It is difficult daily tasks which were once taken for granted.

Heart failure is a severe disease and, generally, there is no remedy. The patient can still lead an enjoyable, meaningful, and productive life with the right care though.

Approximately 5.7 million people in the United States have heart failure, the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute says.

Heart failure, heart attack, and cardiac arrest

A man suffering from heart attack
Heart failure comes in many forms and has many causes.

Here, we explain some important terms:

  • Heart attack – this is death of heart muscle due to the blockage of a coronary artery. The heart muscle dies because it is starved of oxygen (because blood is not getting to it).
  • Heart failure – this means the heart muscle cannot pump blood around the body properly. It is not a heart attack.
  • Cardiac arrest – this means the heart stops, blood circulation stops, and there is no pulse.

Causes

Any factors that damage the heart muscle causes a heart failure. Including:

  • Coronary artery disease – the coronary arteries supply the heart muscle with blood. If these are blocked or the flow is reduced, the heart does not receive the blood supply it needs.
  • Heart attack – a sudden block of the coronary arteries; this causes scars in the heart’s tissues and decreases how effectively it can pump.
  • Cardiomyopathy – damage to the heart muscle other than by artery or blood flow problems; for instance caused by drug side effects or infections.
  • Conditions that overwork the heart – for instance, valve disease, hypertension (high blood pressure), diabetes, kidney disease, or heart defects present from birth.

The following are risk factors for congestive heart failure; can increase the probability of this:

  • Diabetes – especially diabetes type 2.
  • Obesity – people who are both obese and have diabetes type 2 have an increased risk.
  • Smoking – people who smoke regularly run a significantly higher risk of developing heart failure.
  • Anemia – a deficiency of red blood cells.
  • Hyperthyroidism – overactive thyroid gland.
  • Hypothyroidism – underactive thyroid gland.
  • Myocarditis – inflammation of the heart muscle, usually caused by a virus, leading to left-sided heart failure.
  • Heart arrhythmias – abnormal heart rhythms, they may cause the heart to beat too fast, creating more work for the heart. Eventually the heart may weaken, leading to heart failure. If heartbeat is too slow not enough blood may get out from the heart to the body, leading to heart failure.
  • Atrial fibrillation – an irregular, often rapid heart beat; patients with atrial fibrillation have a higher risk of hospitalization due to heart failure, a study found.
  • Emphysema – a chronic disease that makes it hard for the patient to breathe.
  • Lupus – the patient’s immune system attacks healthy cells and tissues.
  • Hemochromatosis – a condition where iron accumulates in the tissues.
  • Amyloidosis – one or more organ systems in the body accumulate deposits of abnormal proteins.

Symptoms

Fatigue and dizziness are possible symptoms of heart failure.
Fatigue and dizziness are possible symptoms of heart failure.

The following are potential heart failure symptoms:

Congested lungs – fluid builds up in the lungs and induces shortness of breath even when resting and particularly when lying down. It can also cause hot, coughing cough.

Fluid retention – it can induce water retention as less blood is pumped to the kidneys. This can cause knees, legs and abdomen to become swollen. This may also cause increased weight gain and urination.

Fatigue and dizziness – when less blood enters the body’s organs, it can cause feelings of fatigue. Since less blood enters the brain may cause dizziness and confusion, too.

Irregular and quick heartbeats – the heart could be beating faster to try to overcome the lack of blood being pumped for each heart contraction.

Heart failure shares symptoms with other diseases, so if anyone lacks the signs, it doesn’t mean heart failure is present.

Whoever encounters more than one of the symptoms, however, should inform their doctor and ask for a heart assessment.

Those who have been diagnosed with heart failure should track their symptoms closely and promptly report any unexpected changes to their doctor.

Types

There are many different types of heart failure:

Left-sided heart failure

Left side cardiac insufficiency is the most common type of congestive heart failure. The left side of the heart is in charge of pumping blood to the rest of the body. Blood piles up into the lungs, because it is not pumped from the heart efficiently. This can result in shortness of breath and build-up of fluid.

Right-sided heart failure

The right side of the heart pumps blood to the lungs, where oxygen is stored. Quite commonly, right-side failure is caused by fluid build-up in the lungs due to a failure on the left. Certain conditions may also cause this, like lung disease.

Diastolic heart failure:

It occurs when the muscle in the heart becomes stiffer than usual. Since the heart is stiff, it doesn’t fully fill with blood; this is known as diastolic dysfunction.

Since the heart doesn’t fill up with blood, it can’t move as much blood around the body as required. Which can take place on either side of the neck.

Systolic heart failure:

Systolic dysfunction describes the failure of the heart to effectively pump after blood has been pumped. Sometimes, it happens when the heart is sluggish or swollen. Which can take place on either side of the neck.

Diagnosis

Originally, most people should see their doctor if they have symptoms. The doctor will speak with the patient about the symptoms. If the doctor suspects a heart attack, more tests may be required, such as:

  • Blood and urine tests – these will check the patient’s blood count and liver, thyroid, and kidney function. The doctor may also want to check the blood for specific chemical markers of heart failure.
  • Chest X-ray – an X-ray will show whether the heart is enlarged. It will also show whether there is fluid in the lungs.
  • An ECG (electrocardiogram) – this device records the electrical activity and rhythms of the patient’s heart. The test may also reveal any damage to the heart from a heart attack. Heart attacks are often the underlying cause of heart failure.
  • An echocardiogram – this is an ultrasound scan that checks the pumping action of the patient’s heart. The doctor measures the percentage of blood pumped out of the patient’s left ventricle (the main pumping chamber) with each heartbeat – this measurement is called the ejection fraction.

The doctor may also carry out the following additional tests:

  • Stress test – the aim here is to stress the heart and study it. The patient may have to use a treadmill or exercise machine, or take a medication that stresses the heart.
  • Cardiac MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) or CT (computed tomography) scan – they can measure ejection fraction as well as the heart arteries and valves. They can also determine whether the patient had a heart attack.
  • B-type natriuretic peptide (BNP) blood test – BNP is released into the blood if the heart is overfilled and struggling to function properly.
  • Angiogram (coronary catheterization) – a catheter (thin, flexible tube) is introduced into a blood vessel until it goes through the aorta into the patient’s coronary arteries. The catheter usually enters the body at the groin or arm. A dye is injected through the catheter into the arteries. This dye stands out on an X-ray and helps doctors detect coronary artery disease (arteries to the heart that have narrowed) – another cause of heart failure.

Prevention and management

Smoking
Giving up smoking is a way to reduce the likelihood of heart failure, or slow its progression.

There are many changes in lifestyle which reduce the chances of developing heart failure, or at least delay its progression. Including:

  • Give up smoking.
  • Eat sensibly, this includes plenty of fruit and vegetable, good quality fats, unrefined carbohydrates, whole grains, and the right amount of daily calories.
  • Exercise regularly and stay physically active (check with your doctor).
  • Keep blood pressure low.
  • Maintain a healthy body weight.
  • Quit alcohol, or at least consume alcohol within the national recommended limits.
  • Get at least 7 hours good quality sleep each night.
  • Mental stress may be bad for the heart over the long-term. Try to find ways of reducing exposure to mental stress.
  • Individuals who already have heart failure should be up-to-date with their vaccinations, and have a yearly flu shot.

Treatments

Damage to the pumping action of the heart caused by a heart attack can not be remedied. Nevertheless, existing therapies will dramatically enhance the patient’s quality of life by keeping the disease under control and helping to reduce many of the symptoms.

Treatment also focuses on addressing any disorders that can cause heart failure, which in turn will reduce the heart strain. A doctor or cardiologist will speak to the patient about medical options and recommend the right decisions, depending on the particular circumstances.

Some heart failure treatments include:

Medications

  • ACE inhibitors (inhibitors of Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme) – these drugs help the arteries relax, lower blood pressure, making it easier for the heart to pump blood around the body – they lower the heart’s workload. Ace inhibitors generally boost the performance of the heart and invariably improve the quality of life of the heart failure patient. These drugs are unsuitable for some patients, though. They can cause an irritating cough in some people.
  • Diuretics – these help patients with swollen ankles. They also relieve breathlessness caused by heart failure. Diuretics remove water and salt from the kidneys in the urine. There are three main types of diuretics – loop diuretics, thiazide diuretics, and potassium-sparing diuretics.
  • Anticoagulants – these drugs make it harder for the blood to clot; they help thin the blood and help prevent a stroke. The most commonly used anticoagulant is Warfarin. However, it has to be carefully monitored by the doctor to ensure the blood thinning effect is not excessive, and it will only be used if you have another reason to thin your blood. There have been a lot of studies on this discussion point. Most point toward no anticoagulation in patients without a diagnosis of afibrilation with or without another indication.
  • Digoxin – a drug for patients with a fast irregular heart rhythm. Digoxin slows down the heartbeat.
  • Beta-blockers – all heart failure patients benefit from beta-blockers.
  • Antiplatelet medicine – these stop the blood platelets from forming clots in the blood. Aspirin is an antiplatelet drug that can be suitable for people with a very high risk of a heart attack or stroke and a low risk of bleeding. Current guidelines no longer recommend the widespread use of aspirin to prevent cardiovascular disease.

Surgery

Not everybody who has heart failure responds to drug therapy. Coronary artery bypass graft-this is the most common procedure for congestive heart failure caused by coronary artery disease.

Heart valve surgery – to patch a faulty valve that contributes to increased heart function.

Implantable left ventricular assist device (LVAD) – this will help the heart pump blood for patients who have not responded to other therapies and are being hospitalized. It is also used by people awaiting a transplant.

Heart transplant – surgery is the best choice if no other therapies or operations will help. Transplants are not used in situations where the patient is stable other than the heart problem.

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Cardiovascular / Cardiology

Symptoms, causes, and treatment of transient ischemic attack (TIA)

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A transient ischemic attack (TIA), also known as a ministroke, happens when the brain’s blood supply is interrupted for a short period of time.

Although the diminished blood flow normally only lasts 5 minutes, a TIA is still a medical emergency. It could be a precursor to a massive stroke.

Because the symptoms of a TIA resolve fast, many people do not seek medical care. However, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than one-third of people who don’t get treatment for a TIA will have a severe stroke within a year.

According to statistics, 20% of persons who have a TIA will have a stroke within three months, and half of these will happen within two days of the TIA.

Knowing the signs and symptoms of a TIA and seeking care as soon as possible can help you avoid a more serious and perhaps life-threatening incident.

In this article, you’ll learn more about what a TIA entails and what to do if one arises.

What is a TIA?

transient ischemic attack (TIA)

A transient ischemic attack (TIA) has symptoms that are similar to those of a stroke, but it causes only a few minutes. The decreased blood flow normally only lasts a few seconds, but the symptoms can last for several minutes. They can last for a few hours on rare occasions.

TIAs occur when a blood clot stops blood flow to the brain cells for a brief period of time, preventing oxygen from reaching the cells. The symptoms usually go away when the clot breaks up or moves on. These events do not stay long enough to cause brain cells permanently.

People should not dismiss a TIA since it could be an indication of a big stroke, according to the American Stroke Association.

According to statistics, TIAs afflict about 2% of the population in the United States.

Causes

When the supply of oxygen to the brain is interrupted, a TIA ensues. This could be as a result of:

  • atherosclerosis, in which fatty deposits cause the arteries to become harder, thicker, narrower, and less flexible
  • blood clots due to heart disease, cardiovascular disease, or an irregular heart rhythm
  • blood clots due to a blood condition, such as sickle cell disease
  • an embolism or blood clot that has traveled from elsewhere in the body
  • an air bubble in the bloodstream

Symptoms

The symptoms of a TIA are determined by which area of the brain isn’t getting enough blood.

The acronym FAST (facial, arms, speech, time) might help people recall the symptoms to look for, just as it can with a severe stroke:

  • F = face: The eye or mouth may droop on one side, and the person may be unable to smile properly.
  • A = arms: Arm weakness or numbness might make it hard to raise one or both arms or keep them raised.
  • S = speech: The person’s speech may be slurred and garbled.
  • T = time: Someone should call the emergency services at once if a person has one or more of these symptoms.

The person may also have:

  • numbness or weakness, especially on one side of the body
  • sudden confusion
  • difficulty understanding what others are talking about
  • vision problems
  • dizziness
  • problems with coordination
  • difficulty walking
  • a very bad headache
  • a loss of consciousness, in some cases

TIA symptoms are only present for a short time. They can last anywhere from a few minutes to several hours, and they normally go away after 24 hours.

However, if anyone experiences symptoms that could signal a TIA, they should seek medical care right away because a massive stroke could result.

The same variables that cause temporary blood flow insufficiency in a TIA can cause a stroke, which can result in irreversible brain damage owing to a longer-lasting blood flow deficit.

Conditions with symptoms that are similar

A TIA’s symptoms can be similar to those of other diseases, such as:

Even if the symptoms of the TIA have subsided, getting an accurate diagnosis can assist a person get the proper treatment to help minimise the risk of a future stroke.

  • having a family history of stroke or TIA
  • being 55 years or above
  • being assigned male at birth
  • being Black or Hispanic, compared with being non-Hispanic white
  • having high blood pressure
  • having cardiovascular disease
  • smoking tobacco
  • having diabetes
  • getting low levels of exercise
  • having high cholesterol levels
  • eating a diet that is high in unhealthy fats and salt
  • having high homocysteine levels
  • having overweight or obesity
  • having a type of heartbeat known as atrial fibrillation

Treatment

Treatment options will be determined by the cause of the TIA. The parts that follow will go over some of the possibilities.

Medications

A doctor may recommend medicine to reduce the risk of a second blood clot and catastrophic stroke.

The treatment options will vary depending on the cause of the TIA, however they usually include:

  • anti-platelet drugs to prevent clotting, such as include aspirin, ticlopidine (Ticlid), and clopidogrel (Plavix)
  • anticoagulants such as warfarin (Coumadin) and heparin, which also help prevent clotting
  • medications to manage high blood pressure, or hypertension
  • drugs to help manage cholesterol levels
  • medications to manage heart disease and regulate irregular heart rhythms

All of these medications can cause side effects and may interact with other medications.

As a result, people should tell their doctor about any other prescriptions they’re taking, including over-the-counter drugs, supplements, and herbal therapies.

If a person has negative side effects while taking a medication, they should consult a doctor. It’s possible that another option exists.

Surgery

A doctor may propose surgery to remove a blockage or a portion of a damaged artery in some instances.

Preventive actions and lifestyle changes

A risk of lifestyle changes can help minimise your chances of having a TIA or stroke. These are some of them:

  • avoiding or quitting smoking
  • avoiding exposure to secondhand tobacco smoke
  • eating a nutritious and varied diet, with plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables
  • managing one’s intake of salt and unhealthy fats
  • getting regular exercise
  • avoiding the use of recreational drugs
  • managing body weight, if appropriate
  • following any treatment plan for heart disease, diabetes, or other conditions

Before making any major lifestyle changes, such as beginning a new workout plan, it is best to consult with a healthcare practitioner to determine the best course of action.

Diagnosis

Anyone who has signs or symptoms of a TIA should seek medical help right away to figure out why it happened and how to avoid a recurrence or a more serious occurrence.

Symptoms can fade fast, and by the time the person sees a doctor, they may be gone. A witness who was present at the time, on the other hand, may be able to assist the individual in explaining the situation to the doctor.

The doctor will likely:

  • ask what happened and ask about any ongoing symptoms
  • ask how long the symptoms lasted for and how they affected the person
  • consider the individual’s personal and family medical history
  • carry out a neurological examination, which may include memory and coordination tests

If the doctor suspects the patient suffered a TIA, he or she may be referred to a neurologist for further evaluation.

The following are some examples of possible tests:

  • blood tests to check blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and clotting ability
  • an electrocardiogram to measure the electrical activity and rhythms of the heart
  • an echocardiogram to check the pumping action of the heart
  • a chest X-ray to help rule out other conditions
  • CT scan to reveal any signs of an aneurysm, bleeding, or changes to blood vessels in the brain
  • an MRI scan to help identify damage to the brain

The doctor may also request that the patient wear a Holter monitor for a few days or weeks in order to track their heart rhythms over time.

Conclusion

The symptoms of a TIA can last anywhere from a few minutes to several hours. However, it is critical to seek medical help because a TIA can be a symptom of a massive stroke.

A TIA is marked by weakness and numbness on one side of the body, facial drooping on one side, and difficulty speaking. If you or someone you know is experiencing these symptoms, call 911 right away.

Following a TIA, lifestyle changes and the use of medicine to lower the risk of future blood clots are two choices for treatment.

Sources:

  • http://stroke.ahajournals.org/content/strokeaha/45/7/2160.full.pdf
  • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4832890/
  • https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/transient-ischaemic-attack-tia/
  • https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/164038
  • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK459143/
  • https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/stroke
  • https://www.stroke.org/en/about-stroke/stroke-symptoms
  • https://www.stroke.org/en/about-stroke/types-of-stroke/tia-transient-ischemic-attack
  • https://www.cdc.gov/stroke/types_of_stroke.htm

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Cardiovascular / Cardiology

What is an echocardiogram?

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An echocardiogram is an ultrasound image of the heart. It can help doctors diagnose a range of heart problems.

Doctors use echocardiograms to help them diagnose heart problems, such as damaged cardiac tissue, chamber enlargement, stiffening of the heart muscle, blood clots in the heart, fluid around the heart, and damaged or poorly functioning heart valves.

In this article, we explain how doctors use echocardiograms, what to expect during the test, and how to interpret the results.

What is it?

echocardiogram

Ultrasound waves are used in echocardiography to create a picture of the heart, which is referred to as an echocardiogram (echo).

It is a minimally invasive medical technique that emits no radiation and has few negative effects.

A doctor can see the following things during an echocardiogram:

  • any blood clots in the heart
  • areas of damaged or weak cardiac muscle tissue
  • the size and thickness of the chambers
  • how the valves of the heart are functioning
  • problems affecting the pericardium, which is the fluid-filled sac around the heart
  • causes of a stroke
  • the direction of blood flow through the heart

Doctors frequently utilize echocardiography to assess a person’s overall heart health, particularly following a heart attack or stroke.

What is the procedure?

Echocardiograms are simple, noninvasive procedures that require little preparation.

We’ll go over what to expect before, during, and after an echocardiography in the sections below.

Preparation

The person does not need to prepare if the echocardiogram is taken from the outside of the body by a healthcare expert.

A doctor will advise people who are getting a transesophageal echocardiography to avoid eating or drinking anything for at least 6 hours before the procedure. Following the local anesthetic wears off, people can resume eating and drinking 1–2 hours after the echocardiography.

During the test

The transthoracic (external) echocardiography will be performed by a sonographer. Sonographers are medical practitioners who specialize in producing images and movies for diagnostic purposes utilizing ultrasound instruments.

The person getting the echocardiography will take off their clothes from the waist up throughout the procedure. If they want to be covered during the exam, they can wear a hospital gown.

The sonographer will then urge the patient to lie on their back or left side on a table. They may inject a saline solution or dye into the veins of the patient to make the heart seem more distinct on an echocardiogram.

The type of echocardiography determines the procedure. Consider the following example:

Transthoracic echocardiogram

The sonographer will apply a gel to the chest if a doctor has ordered a transthoracic echocardiogram. After that, the sonographer will move the transducer across the chest to obtain various images of the heart.

The sonographer may ask someone to change positions or take or hold a deep breath throughout the examination. To gain a better view of the heart, they could press the transducer into the chest.

Transesophageal echocardiogram

If a clinician wants more detailed or sharper images of the heart than a transthoracic echocardiogram can provide, they may perform a transesophageal echocardiogram.

The person may be given a small sedative to help relax the muscles in their throat and a topical anesthetic to block the gag reflex during a transesophageal echocardiogram.

A doctor will guide a small transducer on the end of a long tube down the throat and esophagus until it reaches the back of the heart once the sedative and local anesthetic have taken effect.

As the doctor moves the transducer around the esophagus, the sonographer will record images of the heart. After swallowing the probe, the user should not feel the transducer or tube in their esophagus.

After the test

After a transthoracic echocardiography, most people can resume their normal activities.

After a transesophageal echocardiography, people may be required to stay at the hospital or healthcare center for a few hours. They may have a sore throat at first, but it should go away within a day or two.

If you were given a sedative prior to the exam, you should not drive for many hours afterward.

What does it diagnose?

Echocardiograms allow doctors to see the size, structure, and activity of different parts of the heart.

This allows them to identify heart abnormalities, assess the need for additional tests, decide their next actions, and monitor changes and improvements.

Doctors may use this approach to examine for signs or symptoms that could indicate the following:

  • Heart attack: The test can look for anomalies in the heart muscle tissue’s blood supply, as well as wall irregularities and blood flow, all of which can signal a heart attack.
  • Blood clots (thrombus) or tumors: In a study published in 2021, echo was proven to be a viable alternative to cardiac magnetic resonance in detecting thrombosis. According to a 2020 study, it is also an important noninvasive method for detecting heart masses such as malignancies.
  • Atherosclerosis and coronary artery disease (CAD): While an echo cannot detect artery blockages, narrowing and obstructed arteries can impair the heart’s ability to pump blood and disrupt the heart’s wall motion. This is more noticeable during times of stress, making a stress echo a useful diagnostic tool.
  • Aortic aneurysm and aortic dissection: An echo can detect a wide, weaker aorta, as well as unruptured aneurysms and their size, as well as fibrosis and thrombus formation in the vessel.
  • Cardiomyopathy: The test can determine the size and function of the heart and link it to factors such as wall thickness, weak heart muscle, leaky heart valves, heart failure, and high blood pressure.
  • Pulmonary hypertension: The test can measure heart pressure, which can indicate the presence of pulmonary hypertension and aid doctors in determining the following steps in the diagnosis.
  • Congenital heart disease: In newborns and early children, the test can detect congenital cardiac problems such as septal defects and holes.
  • Heart valve disease: The test checks for leakage, constriction, infection, and blockage in heart valves, as well as irregular cardiac blood flow.
  • Problems with the pericardium: The test can determine whether the pericardium (the sac that surrounds the heart) is inflamed (pericarditis) or has become filled with fluid or blood (pericardial effusion).
  • Heart failure: It can detect cardiac muscle that is weak, stiff, or thickened, which can be a symptom of heart failure.

Doctors frequently utilize the test to determine the cause of an abnormal electrical heart test, known as an electrocardiogram (EKG).

The method is also used to track how effectively the heart responds to various heart treatments, such as heart failure, drugs, prosthetic valves, and pacemakers.

If a doctor suspects a patient has cardiac abnormalities, an echocardiography will be ordered. The following are signs and symptoms that could suggest a cardiac condition:

Types of echocardiogram

Different types of echocardiograms are available, all of which use high-frequency sound waves. The following are some of the most frequent types.

The most common form of echocardiography is the transthoracic echocardiogram.

An ultrasound wand called a transducer is placed on the outside of the chest, near the heart, for this test. Sound waves are sent through the chest and into the heart via the device.

Sound waves move more easily when a gel is applied to the chest. These waves bounce off the heart and appear on a screen as images of the heart’s architecture.

Transesophageal echocardiogram

A thinner transducer attached to the end of a lengthy tube is used in a transesophageal echocardiogram. The tube will be swallowed and inserted into the esophagus, which connects the mouth to the stomach and runs behind the heart.

Because it gives a “close up” view of the heart, this type of echocardiography produces more detailed images of the heart than the typical transthoracic echocardiogram.

Doppler ultrasound

Doppler ultrasounds are used by doctors to check blood flow. They accomplish this by producing sound waves at specified frequencies and observing how the waves bounce off and return to the transducer.

Color doppler ultrasounds can be used by doctors to map the direction and velocity of blood flow in the heart. The blood flowing toward the transducer shows red, while the blood flowing away appears blue. It can also tell you how bad the blockages are.

A doppler ultrasound can detect issues with valves or holes in the heart’s walls, as well as let doctors examine how blood flows through it.

3D echocardiogram

A detailed 3D image of the heart is created through a 3D echocardiography. 3D echocardiograms can be used by doctors to:

  • plan heart valve or structural interventional surgery
  • image complex structures within the heart
  • assess valve functionality in people who have heart failure
  • assess the function of the heart in 3D
  • diagnose heart problems in infants and children

Stress echocardiogram

A doctor can order an echocardiogram as part of a stress test. A stress test involves physical exercise, such as walking, jogging on a treadmill, or riding a bike.

During the test, the doctor will keep track of your heart rate, blood pressure, and electrical activity in your heart.

Before and after the activity, a sonographer will do a transthoracic echocardiogram.

Stress tests are used by doctors to diagnose:

Point-of-care (POC) echocardiogram

A POC echocardiogram is a type of echocardiogram that can be performed at a patient’s bedside by a clinician. These can assist a doctor in answering specific inquiries about possible differential diagnoses.

Limited and focused POC echo are the two types of POC echo.

A limited echocardiogram aids a clinician in determining the cause and repercussions of a heart injury. A focused echo is used by a doctor to assist narrow down the list of other possible diagnoses or to answer a specific query.

With each heartbeat, a POC echocardiogram can determine how well the left or right ventricles pump blood.

Fetal echocardiogram

A fetal echocardiogram allows doctors to see the heart of an unborn baby. This check is normally done between 18 and 22 weeks of pregnancy. Because echocardiograms do not involve radiation, they are safe for both the mother and the infant.

Interpreting the results

The echocardiographic images will be sent to the doctor who requested the test by the sonographer after the exam. The doctor will examine the photos for indicators of cardiac disease, such as:

  • abnormal chamber size
  • poorly functioning valves
  • chamber size
  • masses in the heart, such as blood clots or tumors
  • damaged heart muscle tissue
  • pumping function of the heart
  • thick or thin ventricle walls

What can it miss?

Echocardiograms are very useful in detecting structural heart abnormalities. They may, however, not be the ideal way to check the coronary arteries.

Blockages can cause the structure of the heart. Changes in cardiac function, weak muscles, or thinner heart walls are frequently detected by doctors, prompting them to order additional tests such as a coronary angiogram.

Echocardiograms cannot detect conduction disorders or electrical difficulties that impact the heart’s rhythm, but they can measure the effects of these abnormalities on the heart.

Echocardiogram vs. electrocardiogram

An echocardiogram should not be confused with an electrocardiogram, or EKG, which is another diagnostic procedure. The electrical impulses or waves that flow through cardiac muscle tissue are measured by an EKG.

The electrical activity in the heart causes the heart muscle tissues to contract and relax, resulting in the rhythmic heartbeat that a stethoscope can detect.

Electrodes are placed on the skin of the chest, arms, or legs by a qualified technician, nurse, or doctor. These electrodes capture electrical activity and transfer it to a computer, which translates it into a graph that a doctor may see.

Are there any side effects?

An echocardiogram has a very minimal risk of problems or side effects. When the sonographer guides the tube down the throat during a transesophageal electrocardiogram, the person’s gag reflex may be triggered. After the exam, some people may experience a sore throat.

A significant consequence, such as injury to the throat, vocal cords, or esophagus, can occur very rarely as a result of the transesophageal echocardiogram.

Some people may have an adverse reaction to local anesthetics, sedatives, contrast dyes, or saline used during the exam. Only use contrast dyes if absolutely essential when pregnant.

The following are some of the potential negative effects of contrast dyes:

During a stress test, some people may experience changes in blood pressure or a reduction in oxygen delivery to the heart. In the event that a person has any issues during the assessment, a stress test will be performed in a fully equipped medical facility.

When a person is given sedatives, the stomach contents have a risk of entering the lungs. To avoid this, the patient will be asked to come to the surgery on an empty stomach.

Conclusion

Doctors utilize echocardiography to diagnose heart-related issues. A doctor will assess how well a person’s heart pumps blood during the test.

Doctors can also use echocardiography to check for indicators of cardiac disease such weak heart muscle, blood clots inside the heart, or malfunctioning heart valves.

An echocardiogram may be ordered by a clinician if a patient exhibits symptoms of heart disease, such as:

  • heart murmurs
  • irregular heartbeat
  • shortness of breath
  • abnormal blood pressure
  • leg swelling

The test has a low risk of serious problems or side effects in general. However, some people may have discomfort, and other people may be allergic to the contrast material or anesthesia.

Sources:

  • https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00392-020-01741-7
  • https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/echocardiography
  • https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/326727
  • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/labs/pmc/articles/PMC4593021/
  • https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/10.1161/JAHA.120.017684
  • https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1443950620314487
  • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/labs/pmc/articles/PMC4960283/
  • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6326059/
  • https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/stress-test
  • https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2666087320300910
  • https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/ajum.12128
  • https://www.science.org/doi/full/10.1126/sciadv.abi9283
  • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK395556/

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Cardiovascular / Cardiology

What to know about cerebrovascular disease

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Cerebrovascular disease is a term that encompasses a variety of ailments, diseases, and disorders that affect the brain’s blood arteries and blood flow.

If the brain cells are deprived of oxygen due to a blockage, malformation, or hemorrhage, brain injury can occur.

Cerebrovascular disease can be caused by a number of causes, including atherosclerosis, in which the arteries narrow; thrombosis, or embolic arterial blood clot, in which a blood clot forms in a brain artery; and cerebral venous thrombosis, in which a blood clot forms in a brain vein.

Stroke, transient ischemic attack (TIA), aneurysm, and vascular malformation are all examples of cerebrovascular disorders.

Cerebrovascular disease is the sixth leading cause of mortality in the United States. In 2017, it resulted in 44.9 deaths per 100,000 people, totaling 146,383 deaths.

People can, however, take actions to lower their risk of acquiring cerebrovascular disease. We’ll go through the symptoms, kinds, and treatments for these major health issues, as well as how to avoid them, in this post.

Causes

doctor giving advice to her patient

Cerebrovascular disease can be caused by a number of factors.

If a blood artery in the brain is damaged, it will be unable to provide enough or any blood to the brain region it serves. The absence of blood obstructs the supply of necessary oxygen to brain cells, which causes them to die.

Damage to the brain is irreversible. Emergency assistance is critical in reducing the likelihood of long-term brain damage and increasing a person’s chances of life.

Cerebrovascular disease is mostly caused by atherosclerosis. This happens when high cholesterol levels combine with inflammation in the brain’s arteries, causing cholesterol to form a thick, waxy plaque that narrows or blocks blood flow.

This plaque can restrict or totally block blood flow to the brain, resulting in a cerebrovascular event such as a stroke or transient ischemic attack (TIA).

Types

Cerebrovascular disease includes stroke, transient ischemic attack, and subarachnoid hemorrhage.

Aneurysms and hemorrhages can be dangerous to one’s health. A blockage can occur when blood clots develop in the brain or migrate there from other parts of the body.

Cerebrovascular disease comes in a variety of forms, including:

Ischemic stroke: A blood clot or atherosclerotic plaque stops a blood artery that provides blood to the brain, resulting in a stroke. A clot, or thrombus, can develop in an already narrowed artery.

A stroke happens when the brain cells die due to a lack of blood flow.

Embolism: The most frequent form of ischemic stroke is an embolic stroke. When a clot from elsewhere in the body breaks off and goes to the brain, it blocks a smaller artery.

Arrhythmias, or irregular heart people, increase the risk of embolism.

Ischemic stroke can be caused by a rupture in the lining of the carotid artery in the neck. The rip allows blood to travel between the carotid artery’s layers, narrowing it and limiting blood flow to the brain.

Hemorrhagic stroke: When a blood artery in a portion of the brain becomes weak and breaks open, blood leaks into the brain.

The leaking blood puts pressure on the brain tissue, causing edema and brain tissue damage. Nearby parts of the brain may also lose their supply of oxygen-rich blood as a result of the hemorrhage.

Cerebral aneurysm or subarachnoid hemorrhage: These can be caused by structural issues with the brain’s blood arteries. An aneurysm is a weakened area of the artery wall that can burst and cause bleeding.

When a blood artery ruptures and bleeds between two membranes covering the brain, it is known as a subarachnoid hemorrhage.

The leakage of blood has the potential to harm brain cells.

Learn more about a thrombus, which can lead to an embolism, in this article.

Symptoms

The symptoms of cerebrovascular disease vary depending on where the blockage is located and how it affects brain tissue.

Different events may have different consequences, however the following are frequent symptoms:

  • losing vision on one side
  • loss of balance
  • becoming unconscious
  • paralysis of one side of the body, or hemiplegia
  • weakness on one side, also known as hemiparesis
  • a severe and sudden headache
  • confusion
  • difficulty communicating, including slurred speech

Response to an emergency

The American Stroke Association promotes public awareness of the F.A.S.T. acronym as a tool for detecting and responding to stroke warning signs:

  • Face drooping
  • Arm weakness
  • Speech difficulty
  • Time to call 911

If somebody displays symptoms of a cerebrovascular stroke, they should get medical help right away since it can have long-term consequences including cognitive damage and paralysis.

Risk factors

The most frequent form of cerebrovascular incident is a stroke.

Stroke risk rises with age, especially if a person or a close family has already experienced a cerebrovascular event. Between the ages of 55 and 85, this risk doubles every ten years.

A stroke, on the other hand, can strike at any age, including infancy.

Stroke and other kinds of cerebrovascular disease are caused by a number of factors, including:

A person’s chances of developing a cerebral aneurysm are increased by the same circumstances. People who have a congenital abnormality or have had head trauma, on the other hand, may be at a higher risk of developing a cerebral aneurysm.

Cerebral venous thrombosis, a blood clot affecting a vein in the brain, can also be increased by pregnancy.

Other cerebrovascular disease risk factors include:

  • a vein of Galen malformation, an arterial disorder that develops in a fetus during pregnancy
  • venous angiomas, which affect around 2% of the U.S. population and rarely bleed or cause symptoms
  • Moyamoya disease, a progressive condition that can lead to a blockage of the cerebral arteries and their major branches

Certain medications and medical conditions can cause blood to clot more easily, increasing the risk of ischemic stroke.

In people who currently have atherosclerosis or carotid artery disease, hormone replacement treatment (HRT) may raise the risk of a heart attack.

Find out what strokes are and how to spot them.

Treatment

A cerebrovascular episode need immediate medical attention. Because a person must get stroke drugs within a specified time frame from the beginning of symptoms, rapid assessment and treatment are critical.

In the event of an acute stroke, the emergency team may deliver tissue plasminogen activator (tPA), a drug that dissolves the blood clot.

A brain hemorrhage requires the attention of a neurosurgeon. They may do surgery to relieve the increased pressure caused by a bleed.

A carotid endarterectomy is a procedure that includes cutting a hole in the carotid artery and removing plaque. This re-establishes blood flow. The artery is then repaired with stitches or a graft by the surgeon.

Carotid angioplasty and stenting, which includes a surgeon putting a balloon-tipped catheter into the artery, may be necessary for some people. The balloon will subsequently be inflated to reopen the artery.

The surgeon next inserts a thin metal mesh tube, known as a stent, into the carotid artery to increase blood flow in the previously occluded artery. After the treatment, the stent keeps the artery from collapsing or shutting up.

Rehabilitation

People may endure temporary or permanent incapacity as a result of a cerebrovascular accident, which can cause lasting brain damage.

As a result, they may need a variety of supportive and rehabilitative therapies in order to maintain as much function as feasible.

These might include the following:

  • Occupational therapy: This can assist a person in gaining access to resources that will enable them return to employment and daily life.
  • Psychological therapy: Physical disabilities might result in unforeseen emotional demands that need extensive retraining. If a person feels overwhelmed following a cerebrovascular incident, they may benefit from seeing a psychiatrist, psychologist, or counselor.
  • Physical therapy: This seeks to improve limb function, mobility, and flexibility.
  • Speech therapy: After a stroke or a cerebrovascular episode, this may help people speak more effectively and restore speech.

Find out all about physical therapy here.

Reducing the risk of stroke

Blood platelet inhibitors like Dipyridamole, Ticlopidine, and Clopidogrel can help prevent strokes before they happen. These can help prevent stroke in people who have had a stroke before or who have a high risk of developing one

Doctors used to suggest that people take aspirin every day to lower their risk of heart attack or stroke. Current guidelines, on the other hand, recommend that people take aspirin only if they are at high risk of a cardiovascular event and have a low risk of bleeding.

This is due to the fact that aspirin raises the risk of bleeding.

Statins are drugs that are prescribed by doctors to lower and control high cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of ischemic stroke and heart attack.

Diagnosis

Any cerebrovascular incident is a medical emergency, and anybody who notices the symptoms should call 911 for assistance. The importance of early detection in preventing brain injury cannot be overstated.

A doctor will inquire about the patient’s medical history and look for particular neurological, motor, and sensory problems, such as:

  • abnormal eye movements
  • muscle weakness
  • changes in vision or visual fields
  • decreased sensation
  • reduced or altered reflexes

A vascular abnormality, such as a blood clot or a blood artery defect, can be detected using a cerebral angiography, vertebral angiogram, or carotid angiogram. Injecting dye into the arteries reveals any clots and allows CT or MRI imaging to show their size and form.

Because it can distinguish between blood, bone, and brain tissue, a CAT scan can aid in the diagnosis and detection of hemorrhagic strokes. However, especially in the early phases of an ischemic stroke, it does not always detect damage.

Even early-stage strokes can be detected with an MRI scan.

A cardiac arrhythmia, which is a risk factor for embolic strokes, can be detected by an electrocardiogram (EKG or ECG).

Prevention

healthy foods
Adopting a healthy diet can aid in the preservation of vascular health.

The following are some methods for lowering the risk of cerebrovascular disease:

  • getting at least 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity every week is recommended
  • maintaining a healthy body weight by consuming a balanced diet that promotes vascular health, such as the DASH diet, as recommended by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
  • stop smoking
  • managing blood cholesterol and blood pressure with diet and medications if necessary

People who have heart arrhythmia should talk to their doctor about whether or not they should take a blood thinner to avoid strokes.

Although stroke and other cerebrovascular events can result in death, full or partial recovery is possible with prompt medical intervention. To lower the risk of a stroke, people with cerebrovascular disease should follow healthy lifestyle advice and their doctor’s instructions.

Conclusion

The outlook is determined by the sort of occurrence, its intensity, and the speed with which a person receives care.

Cerebrovascular disease can kill someone or leave you disabled for a long time. Some people, on the other hand, will fully recover.

The greatest approaches to enhance a person’s outlook with cerebrovascular disease are prompt treatment and a lifestyle that decreases the chance of stroke.

Sources:

  • http://www.onlinejacc.org/content/accj/early/2019/03/07/j.jacc.2019.03.010.full.pdf
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  • https://www.ninds.nih.gov/Disorders/Patient-Caregiver-Education/Preventing-Stroke#Risk%20Factors
  • https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/carotid-endarterectomy
  • https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/184601
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  • https://www.strokeassociation.org/en/about-stroke/stroke-symptoms
  • https://www.strokeassociation.org/en/about-stroke/treatment#.WBMLG5MrJTY

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