18663 Ventura Blvd, Suite 202, Tarzana CA 91356

Friday, April 24, 2009


I had my SVT ablation today (for more on that, read the post below this).

It was a long procedure -- about three and a half hours, since I had an atypical electrical pathway. I now understand why adenosine is so uncomfortable and how isoproterenol makes the heart pound. I recall lying on the cath lab table, in a fog of versed and fentanyl (sedation medications), as my heart would intermittently pound. But in the end, it was a success.

The staff in the cath lab and the nurses on the floor were great.

I definitely have a new appreciation for what my patients go through.
Image from

Monday, April 13, 2009

Seeing the Other Side

As of late, I find myself in the role of the patient.

About six weeks ago, I noticed some short bursts of palpitations and lightheadedness. Then during a weight training workout, I felt my pulse racing for about a minute before it would stop. I had only four hours of sleep the night before, it was 5 am at the gym, and I figured it was just due to fatigue.

A week and a half later, it occurred again while lifting. I looked down at my Polar heart rate monitor -- 180 beats per minute. That can't be right. My first instinct was to keep on exercising and hope it would stop, but trying to do squats with a racing heart doesn't work so well. I tried carotid sinus massage, pressing on the neck to try to stop the racing heart rhythm. Then I laid down, and by bearing down I was able to break the endless loop, watching my heart rate monitor flash from 180 suddenly to 73 beats per minute.

Being a cardiologist, I knew that this was likely a supraventricular tachycardia -- in other words, an abnormal circuit in the heart that can cause the heart to race. I obtained a portable heart rate monitor that I could carry with me wherever I went -- on long runs and bike rides, or in my lab coat pocket. If the palpitations recurred, I could capture the electrical impulses so that the rhythm could be diagnosed and appropriately treated.

Two and a half weeks went by without any palpitations. I hoped that meant that I was cured, but that was quite unlikely. Then, after a challenging bike climb, it occurred again. I pulled out my trusty event monitor to record the rhythm and sent in the recording.

My suspicions were correct. I have supraventricular tachycardia, also known as SVT. And the episodes are becoming more frequent, and at times are lasting longer, up to 25 minutes at a time!

There are two ways to treat this. The first option is medication. That would decrease the frequency of the attacks. However, it would cause my heart to be slower all the time and would limit my capacity to swim, bike, or run, and in all likelihood would not cure me. The second option is an invasive procedure called an ablation, which involves feeding a catheter from the large vein in the upper leg up to the heart, localizing the abnormal rhythm, and burning through that abnormal electrical circuit. The cure rate with the latter option is 90-95%.

I'm opting for the latter, more invasive procedure. I need a cure. If I had SVT while running or bicycling, it would be disruptive, and I'd have to stop. Worse yet, if I had SVT while swimming in open water, that could be downright dangerous.

Until my ablation procedure is done, I cannot race. Which absolutely kills me, because I was looking forward to my first race of the season this weekend.

I am nervous -- even though the complication risk is very low, normally I'm the one performing the procedure, and now I will be the patient on the table. I think this will give me a different appreciation for my patients' experiences.
Image from

Thursday, April 09, 2009

More Passover Dishes

The recipe is called Mrs. Feinberg's Kugel. I have no idea who Mrs. Feinberg is, but her kugel is fabulous! The recipe includes 1 cup grated apple, 1 cup grated sweet potato, and 1 cup of grated carrots, and one cup of matzah meal. Then add 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp cinnamon, 1 tsp of baking soda. The recipe also calls for 1/2 cup of margarine -- I only used 1/4 cup, but probably could have gotten away with even less than that. There is also an optional addition of nutmeg and sugar, but honestly, the dish is sweet enough that it doesn't need added sugar. Bake for 45 minutes at 325 degrees.

Mushroom and potato casserole. Boil redskin potatoes, mash, and put them at the bottom of the dish. Then saute sliced mushrooms and onion, just until the mushrooms give up their juice. Pour the mushroom and onion mixture on top of the potato layer. Top with almond slivers and raisins. The dish calls for 2 tablespoons of margarine, which I omitted.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Matza Farfel Pasta

Tonight is the first night of Passover. Passover is a Jewish holiday on which we do not eat leavened bread, nor do we eat items that may resemble leavened bread. This includes soy, lentils, and peanuts, all of which are normally staples of my diet as a vegan.

I enjoy the holiday because it challenges me to prepare food that I would not normally make.
This is whole wheat matzah farfel with baby bella mushrooms, pasta sauce, and carrots. I sauteed the sliced mushrooms in 1/2 cup of pasta sauce, then added sliced carrots, and last 1/2 cup of matzah farfel. 320 calories.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Triathlon and Risk of Sudden Death

Research presented at the American College of Cardiology 2009 Scientific Sessions demonstrates that the risk of sudden death is higher during a triathlon than during a marathon. Most deaths occur during the swim portion of the race and the average age of those who died was 42 years old.

I think that the take-home message here is that athletes, particularly those who do not compete regularly in races or those who have cardiovascular risk factors, should be screened by their physicians before racing.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

They're Not Mashed Potatoes....

but they're healthier and still really tasty!
I made mashed cauliflower. I boiled 12 oz of cauliflower for about 20 minutes, poured it through a drainer, and then mashed it. I added just one teaspoon of Earth Balance margarine, salt, and pepper.