Heart muscle weakness can be caused by many things.
Most heart diseases, if left unattended, will eventually lead to heart
muscle weakness. The result is the heart can not pump enough blood,
causing heart failure in the end.
In the past, when treating heart muscle weakness, doctors would focus on
strengthening the heart muscles using medications. There was an idea to
use muscles from other parts to help, but it didn't work in practice. At
present, stem cell technique is used so that the cells grow into
healthier heart muscles, but more studies are needed to confirm whether
this is really good.
Recently, it was noticed that weak heart muscles not only work less but
also do not work in synchrony. This is because of the irregular
electricity travelling within the heart muscle. When the heart beats (or
contracts), blood is pumped to every organ in the body, but due to this
condition, blood does not go far because the main heart chamber does not
contract in sync. It's like two persons rowing a boat at a different
pace and direction _ not only does the boat go slowly, but the rowers
also become more tired.
So an idea was proposed _ if the heart could work in sync, it would work
more effectively in pumping blood. In the past, we had a permanent
pacemaker for patients whose heart beat very slowly. It is an electronic
device implanted under the skin and linked to the heart to make sure the
electricity is in check and the heart does not beat too slow.
Today's technology and doctors have resulted in an even better version
of pacemaker, which could be linked to various parts of the heart to
adjust electricity, making the heart chambers work rhythmically and
naturally in synchrony.
Heart failure and heart muscle weakness could lead to pulmonary edema,
shock, or even a sudden stop of the heart. In that case, intervention in
form of defibrillation, using direct electric current to reset the heart
rhythm, is required to bring the person back to life as soon as
possible. If left for too long, the chance is very slim. We are talking
life-changing minutes or seconds here. A defibrillator and pacemaker are
put together in one device for patients with weak heart muscles.
A patient of mine was about 50 years old and he came to see me because
he had heart failure. He felt tired easily, although in the past he
could exercise on a bicycle for an hour everyday. When he came to see
me, he could barely walk 10 metres without pausing for breath.
Sometimes, he couldn't lie on his back and some nights he had to sleep
sitting upright. He had had the symptoms for a few years.
I found no problem of narrowed coronary arteries at his heart, so I
assumed that it could be some virus infection he had in the past that
caused heart muscle weakness. I prescribed some medicines, but he didn't
feel much better. I referred him to have the newer generation of
pacemaker or so-called CRTD device to help his heart work better. Soon
after, his condition improved and he felt much stronger.
The good thing about this device is that it also records the heart's
activities when the person is not in hospital. I found that his heart
had ventricular fibrillation (cardiac arrhythmia) twice, and without the
defibrillator, he might not have survived. Ventricular fibrillation
could be fatal and almost hundred per cent of the time it will not
correct by itself. When I told him about the two incidences, he was over
the moon, knowing that he had been lucky. He commented, "This device is
really worth the money! It has saved my life twice!" Well, it's only
300,000-400,000 baht, compared to your life. The longer you have it, the
more value for money you get. Without this device, you probably wouldn't
have made it to the doctor.
Technology today can save many lives, but it is only temporary. Nobody
lives forever, and death is inevitable. The important thing is not to
delay death, but to make sure your living moments are happy.