Whitesburg KY

Stress tests help find heart disease



DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I had an EKG in preparation for surgery. The doctor said it was abnormal. I was sent for a stress test. I could not do the physical stress test, so I had a chemical one. I was told that the results were OK.

No one told me why the EKG was abnormal. I am very concerned. Is it OK just to go on living as I have been, or do I need to do something?

I have searched the Internet for information but can find none. — M.D.

ANSWER: A resting EKG is a good test, but it’s not the ultimate heart test. Things can look strange on a resting EKG. In order to find out if those strange-looking things are significant, the next step is to do a more sophisticated heart test, one that is more sensitive in detecting true changes and more specific in eliminating EKG changes that look odd but don’t truly represent heart disease.

That’s where a stress test comes in. During a stress test, the person exercises, usually on a treadmill. All during the test, an EKG runs. It shows changes if the stressed heart isn’t getting enough blood when it has to pump harder. You didn’t have the treadmill variety of a stress test; you had one where a drug stressed your heart. The end result is the same.

Your stress test must have removed the suspicion of heart disease that arose from the resting EKG. Do you play cards? Your stress test trumped your resting EKG.

It’s OK for you to go on living just as you have been. If something was wrong, the doctor would be obliged to tell you so.

Stress tests are done to detect coronary artery disease, the illness that brings on heart attacks. The booklet on that subject explains what coronary artery disease is, how it’s detected and how it’s treated. Readers can obtain a copy by writing: Dr. Donohue — No. 101W, Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475. Enclose a check or money order (no cash) for $4.75 U.S./$6 Canada. with the recipient’s printed name and address. Please allow four weeks for delivery.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I was recently diagnosed with the swallowing disorder Zenker’s diverticulum. I am scheduled for surgery. Can you discuss it and its treatment? I am interested in the recovery process because I am a teacher and use my voice all day. My doctor has chosen surgery that involves going through my mouth. — B.H.

ANSWER: A Zenker’s diverticulum is a pouch that bulges from the lower part of the throat. The pouch can cause swallowing problems. Food can get caught in it and remain there. When it finally leaves the pouch, it has a most unpleasant odor.

There are many surgical procedures to remove the pouch and shore up the throat tissue. Scopes are used by some doctors. Recovery is quicker with the scope. After surgery, you will not be allowed to eat or drink for a day or so, longer for the standard operation. The results are almost always excellent. The voice is not commonly affected.

Dr. Donohue regrets that he is unable to answer individual letters, but he will incorporate them in his column whenever possible. Readers may write him or request an order form of available health newsletters at P.O. Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475.

©2009 North America Synd.

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