Wednesday, 02 July, 2003

A visit to the cardiologist

Today I went to the cardiologist for a stress echo cardiogram.  This is the last of the tests to see if I have the same problem that killed my dad 11 years ago and caused my brother to have heart surgery.  I showed up at the appointed time and met the technician who took me into the back room.  While she was shaving a half dozen or so areas of my chest in preparation for the EKG electrodes, she asked me a few questions about my own assessment of my health and explained the procedure.  She then had me lay down, and took some sonar pictures of my heart beating while I was at rest (heart rate about 60 beats per minute).  By comparing the heart's function under load (i.e. at a high heart rate) with its function while I'm at rest, they can determine if there are any significant blockages.

Here's the fun part.  The doctor came in, turned on the treadmill, and I started walking.  He kept me talking while I was walking; mostly, I think, so that he could tell if I started to get into trouble.  He also was watching the EKG during this time to see if anything abnormal showed up.  Every three minutes the treadmill would speed up and the incline would increase.  It doesn't take very many increases to have you jogging up a pretty steep hill at a reasonably fast pace, and after 12 minutes I was ready to quit.  No wonder, as I found out later.  When I'm riding my bike I make it a point to keep my heart rate below 180.  My heart rate was 186 beats per minute when I came off that treadmill.

It's almost a disappointment to go through all that effort just to find out that nothing's wrong with me.  At least, the stress echo cardiogram didn't reveal any problems.  Doc says it's about 90 percent accurate.  That is, in about 10 percent of cases there are problems that the test won't reveal.  However, given the other test results, my lifestyle, and my general good health, he's confident that I'm okay.  I concur, and I suspect my insurance company wouldn't be too happy with more tests, either.

I'm a little disappointed, too, that they couldn't give me an AVI or other digital picture of my heart working.  Heck, pregnant women get sonar pictures of their babies, don't they?