Coarctation of the Aorta – CoA

Coarctation of the Aorta - CoA

You have read something of congenital heart defects inside the heart. Now let us consider a defect that is outside the heart itself, in one of the great arteries of the body – the aorta.

What is COARCTATION of the aorta ?

Coarctation of the aorta (CoA) is an area of localized narrowing of the large artery called the aorta. (“Coarctatio” – Latin : a drawing or pressing together). The narrowing may be caused by a “shelf” of tissue inside the blood vessel which reduces its area. Alternately, it may be caused by under-development of a portion of the aorta itself, which causes a longer area of reduced diameter.

Where does CoA occur ?

The narrowing that occurs in CoA is most commonly seen at a portion called the ISTHMUS.

But what is the isthmus ?

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Ventricular Septal Defect – VSD

Ventricular Septal Defect VSD

What is a Ventricular Septal Defect?

Ventricular septal defects – also called VSD – are similar to ASD.

A VSD is a “hole” in the wall between the two lower chambers of the heart – the ventricles.

VSD may be small, medium-sized or large, and may be single or multiple. It may occur in different parts of the ventricular septum, and may sometimes be found along with other heart defects.

What happens when there is a VSD ?

The wall between ventricles is meant to separate blood passing through each. This is to prevent mixing of “impure” blood from the veins with “pure” blood going to the arteries. When the wall is “broken”, mixing occurs.

However, only “pure” blood flows from the left ventricle into the right; no flow is seen from the right ventricle into the left side across the VSD and so “impure” venous blood does not reach the arteries. This is because pressure in the left ventricle is much higher than the right, and fluids always flow from places of high to lower pressure.

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Atrial Septal Defect – ASD

What is an Atrial Septal Defect ?

The two upper chambers of the heart are called the right and left atrium. They are separated by a “wall”, called the ATRIAL SEPTUM. Sometimes, this “wall” is not complete. There is a hole in it.

This hole is called an Atrial Septal Defect – or ASD, in short. ASD’s may be large or small, single or multiple. The heart may be otherwise normal, or there may be other defects too.

What happens when there is an ASD ?

In the normal heart, blood flowing in the right sided chambers (atrium and ventricle) is completely separated from the left sided chambers by the atrial septum. When there is a hole in this “wall”, blood from the left atrium flows through the hole into the right side.

You might well ask, “Why only from left to right ?”

That’s because the pressure of blood in the left atrium is higher than in the right, and as you know, any fluid, including blood, will flow from a place with high pressure to one with a lower pressure.

So what is the effect of this ?

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Undertanding Unstable Angina

Unstable Angina

Grandma almost died – SEVEN times!

The attacks came with no warning. At any time of the day or night, it would hit her with uncaring abandon, leaving the hearty, cheerful old lady bent over and crippled with pain. Her face ashen and sweaty. The breath rattling wheezily through her chest.

In agony, she’d gasp for water – and her pills. I would rush to the fridge to fetch her brown colored bottle. A few moments after she placed the tiny white tablet under her tongue, she’d find blessed relief.

The uncertainty about when the next attack would come had us all on tenterhooks. We all knew she might die from one of them. That was nerve wracking.

It wasn’t until many years later that I learned about unstable angina, what causes it, and how to treat it. 

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Heart Attack – All That You Need To Know About It

Heart Attack

My cellphone rang at 2 a.m.

That’s always a bad thing. Usually, it meant a medical emergency.

My uncle was on the line. “Your aunt’s having some chest discomfort for around ten minutes.” I snapped fully awake at the words, suspecting a heart attack. “It’s getting worse. Not really chest pain, but…”

I interrupted. “Take her to ______ hospital right away,” I said, naming a specialty hospital nearby where there would be facilities to investigate her for an acute coronary syndrome and treat it.

For reasons best known to him, uncle chose another smaller hospital nearer home. It was a decision that almost cost her life!

An inexperienced junior doctor, who also played “cardiologist on call”, mismanaged her case. The episode of unstable angina, which might have been reversed with prompt treatment, evolved into a full-blown heart attack.

Treatment was lengthy and expensive. Aunt survived with little damage to her heart. She was lucky. Many are not. That’s why it is important to learn all about a heart attack and understand what to do if you notice signs of heart attack.

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