Pericardial Effusion Part I

October 3, 2014

ECGs and EKGs

 

It’s time to start investigating why there’s a bit of extra fluid around my heart, which is known as Pericardial Effusion.  So today I met Dr. Ajit Raisinghani, a cardiologist who is part of the University of California San Diego Healthcare system.  At the UCSD Medical Center Dr. Raisinghani is Director of Cardiology Clinics, Director of Non-Invasive Laboratory Chief of Clinical Services, and associate professor. He enjoys cycling quite a bit too, and enjoys spending time with his wife and two sons!

 

I was greatful that Dr. Raisinghani was able to see me on such short notice.  He conducted an Echo-cardiogram (ECG) and an Electro-Cardiogram (KG). If you’re like me, you may be wondering about the difference between these two kinds of tests.

 

As I learned, an ECG is a test that creates pictures of the heart through the use of sound waves.  The pictures created allow the Dr. to see the heart’s beating ability, the heart’s valves and chambers, and enables the detection of several things including:

  • Abnormal heart valves
  • Abnormal heart rhythms
  • Congenital heart disease
  • Damage to the heart muscle from a heart attack
  • Heart murmurs
  • Inflammation (pericarditis) or fluid in the sac around the heart (pericardial effusion)
  • Infection on or around the heart valves (infectious endocarditis)
  • Pulmonary hypertension
  • Ability of the heart to pump (for people with heart failure)
  • Source of a blood clot after a stroke or TIA

**Information found on www.nlm.nih.gov**

 

Think of the ECG as an ultrasound.  A gel is applied to the center and left areas of your chest and on the upper abdomen.  Then a probe is used to slide around these areas while it sends out the sound waves that pick up your heart.  It was a pretty neat experience because there are times throughout the exam when you can hear how your heart beats, how it speeds up and slows down depending on your breathing, and the difference in sound from when the probe is on your chest versus your abdomen.

 

On the other hand, an EKG records the electrical activity of the heart.  Basically, an electrical signal travels from the top to the bottom of the heart each time the heart beats.  As the electrical signal moves from top to bottom it causes the heart to contract and to pump blood.  It is these signals that set the rhythm of the heart beat.

An EKG shows:

  • How fast your heart is beating
  • Whether the rhythm of your heartbeat is steady or irregular
  • The strength and timing of electrical signals as they pass through each part of your heart

Doctors use EKGs to detect and study many heart problems, such as heart attacks, arrhythmias (ah-RITH-me-ahs), and heart failure. The test’s results also can suggest other disorders that affect heart function.

**Information found on www.nih.gov**

 

The Findings:

Dr. Raisinghani told me that he suspected three potential causes of the Pericardial Effusion:

1. Potentially caused by a low Thyroid function (perhaps a result of all the Chemo meds)

2. The Docetaxel Chemo med has Pericardial Effusion as one of the risks associated with it.

3. Potential metastasis, highly unlikely given no metastasis was found in my latest scans and blood work.

 

now, the next steps are to have some blood drawn to check my Thyroid, have a Cardiac MRI done, and repeat the ECG in two weeks to see if the fluid has changed.

 

Stay tuned for more!

 

Namaste,

Ivonne

 

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