What's a Patient to Do?

One of the toughest things I have had to deal with as a cardiac recovery patient is the studies dealing with medication and implantable devices.

One of the toughest things I have had to deal with as a cardiac recovery patient is the studies dealing with medication and implantable devices.

Over the past year — I continue to strive to recover every day from my July 20, 2006, event – there have been several media reports that could alarm anyone who doesn’t know the rudiments of what is going on.

First there were the studies pointing out a danger with drug-coated stents. Since my heart contains three of them — and I figure myself, as a journalist – to be a highly literate person - I naturally had a shiver when I read the reports.

After all, three Taxus Express stents are in three separate arteries in my heart — I joke with one of my workout partners who has four edged me, 4-3, in this competition – but the serious part of this was anything but a joking matter. These devices are in my heart. Are they safe?

Then we had the reports of wire leads with certain defibrillators causing a possible problem. Though my cardiologists thought I might need such a device soon after my heart attack, my heart has recovered well enough that my ejection fraction is 42, well-above the benchmark number of 35 or below that usually dictates the implantation of such a device.

Just a few weeks ago, a study was finally released explaining Vytorin might not be the drug of choice for a patient looking to keep both cholesterol and artery inflammation at levels that will lower the risk of future problems.

The drug of choice in that area for is Zocor, which has proven effective in lowering cholesterol and keeping inflammation in check.

What’s a patient to do? A familiar drug is now dispensed as a generic. At times the picture seems to be constantly changing. This is where I value my physicians the most. Certainly lifesaving procedures were performed successfully on my heart, thankfully in time. Certainly there all these tests which give the cardiologist and your primary physician the picture of what is happening.

There has been pressure on the doctors to explain all this in layman’s language. I found my cardiologists were willing to take the time, ease fears and make what was reported in the studies understandable.

Drug-coated stents were still deemed safe, especially with a combination Plavix/Aspirin regimen, it was explained in professional fashion to me. A few months later, another study stated the drug-coated stents were OK.

I will say this. The physicians I deal with calmed my fears, took time to explain what goes into these studies and put things in perspective.

Some joke about the “bedside manner’’ of this physician or that. It is not overrated in today’s instant media bonanza. In ways, I feel it is just as important as the procedures one experiences in this situation.

It all boils down to one matter patients and physicians have agreed on for many generations. Being either isn’t always easy.