Sunday, October 10, 2010

September 15, 2010: Cardiologist Appointment

Hi there, faithful readers (or those of you that just happened to stumble onto this posting). Today is the updated that my normal readers were hoping to see last Sunday. Unfortunately, my free time in the morning was cut an hour short, so I was not able to get online and write up my explanation from my latest cardiology appointment.

I saw my "new" cardiologist about a month ago. I say new because the cardiologist that I used to go see has retired from practice. I think she wanted to spend more time with her family (of which I am in favor). So, the previous visit to my cardiologist, back in June was to check my heart and my mitral valve to make sure everything was still working correctly. You can read that post here: Cardiologist Appointment - June 15, 2010. The doctor thought he saw some disturbing signs, so he asked me to come back in three months, instead of my typical six, to have my heart reviewed again.

The post received a few questions, which I will endeavor to answer below. I did not know the answers myself, so I just asked the doctor to help me out :)

1) Please Explain Ejection Fraction
The ejection fraction is the volume difference between heartbeats. Normally, you would expect to see an ejection fraction of 60% to 65%. My current rating is between 55% and 60%. I asked, and the doctor said that an ejection fraction of less than 50% was very bad, and that they would want to get me into surgery if that were to happen.

2) What is the Thickness of Your Mitral Valve Leaflets?
Normal mitral valve leaflets (shown in the diagram at the bottom as MV) are usually around 5 millimeters thick. My leaflets are slightly thicker than normal, but nothing to worry about at this time.

3) Do you have any enlarged ventricles or atrium?
No, at this time my ventricles and atria are both normal sized. This question is important because the mitral regurgitation can cause the heart to expand in size, over time. If you heart starts to get larger, it cannot be made smaller again. So, part of what they watch for is to make sure that your heart is not getting too big and that your ejection fraction stays within safe tolerances.

4) Please explain regurgitation and prolapse (in regards to the heart).
Regurgitation is blood flowing the wrong way in the heart. In the diagram at the bottom of this post, you can see a rough drawing of the heart. Blood is supposed to flow from the Left Atrium (LA) to the Left Ventricle (LV) and then out of the Aorta (AO). Regurgitation is the arrow that shows blood flowing back across the Mitral Valve (MV) from the LV to the LA.

Prolapse is simply the valve action going back up into the Left Atrium (LA). Normally, your mitral valve (MV) should allow blood flow downward (in the drawing) from LA to LV. The valve leaflets should stop the blood from flowing back up. Mine do not do that quite as well as they should. This reverse action causes the leaflets to be a little spongy, and to eventually wear out.

The doctor is watching the size of my heart as well as the ejection fraction that the valve is allowing. When they start to head toward a more dangerous range, then we will start talking about surgery.

5) What's your current status, then?
OK - big question! I'm still doing fine. The doctor said that he did not see a recurrence of the problems that he thought he noted in June, so I will not see him again for six months (this was my normal schedule). I'm not in perfect heart health, as my Ejection Fraction is down to 55-60% instead of 60-65%. But, until there are any changes, then I will keep my ribcage intact!

Thanks for reading today! The drawing below is my sketch based on the sketch that the doctor gave me at my appointment. Please try an pretend that it looks like a heart.

My next post should be about the post-transplant follow-up that I had on October 7. If I'm lucky, I will write it up next Sunday. See you later!