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Date of last update: 10/20/2017.

Forum Name: Ischemic Heart Disease

Question: Dead heart muscle and artery

 dquinn16 - Tue Mar 24, 2009 8:12 pm

My dad just recently left the hospital. He had a heart attack and pneumonia. The doctors say there is nothing they can do for him except to eliminate saturated fat, sodium, and cholesterol, and to increase exercise. I am concerned that the rest of his heart will be working overtime, and I do not think it will last long this way. Are my concerns rational? VERY WORRIED
 John Kenyon, CNA - Wed Mar 25, 2009 8:32 pm

User avatar Your concerns are rational, especially given the clumsy explanation of what's going on and being done. Hopefully there was just something lost in translation, because that's an awful way to describe the outlook for a discharged heart attack patient. I'll try to give you a little clearer explanation, even without knowing the particulars.

Your dad had a heart attack -- myocardial infarction (MI). This means part of the heart muscle died. That's what a heart attack -- MI -- is. Myocardium is the heart muscle. Infarction is the death of living tissue. Every heart attack that isn't aborted results in some dead cardiac muscle. How much and where are the important things I don't know, but I do know your dad was sent home after recovering from the MI and pneumonia (the latter being a common complication of MI, so don't feel too concerned about that). The usual follow up therapy consists of rest, graduated exercise, dietary changes as appopriate, and sometimes medication to lower cholesterol and often a beta blocker to reduce workload on the heart early on.

Depending on the amount of actual damage (scarring) the heart may or may not have to work harder. Cardiac rehab is one of the most effective ways of getting the heart built up to utilize what working muscle is left. Sometimes it's a lot (we're blessed with more heart muscle than we usually need) and sometimes it's just a tiny scar. The heart, depending on the location of the injury, can often accomodate a pretty large amount of damage and still work very well, assuming the disease process is slowed or reversed, and often there is "nothing more to do" because that's all that's required. But to put it in those terms can certainly be unnerving and if that's how it was trasmitted to you, it was very clumsy.

I hope this is helpful. If you have any more specific information I could help you interpret the prognosis better, but given what I know so far, your dad survived the acute episode and pneumonia and now will start doing things to ensure the remaining heart muscle will serve him well for a good long time.

Please follow up withus as needed. Good luck to you and to your dad.

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