Finally, comes the end of the matter. The stress test is over and done with. The test itself was simple and, for many people, it is an easy one. I had the test on Nov 11, 2010 - my birthday.
There were two cardiologists there - my own (at my insistence) and a resident. The nurses were very friendly and very good at what they were doing.
First thing was to put the IV port in my arm. Wel-l-l-l-l... she was new and so nice that I didn't want to complain, but I think she may have pierced the vein in my left elblow, all the way through! Could happen to anyone, right? And so what? She was cute! (What a sucker I am for "cute".)
After that "port" was in, there were no more needle worries.
Next, another nurse hooked me up to the ECG machine. (Hair on the chest can be a problem for the sticky pads that hold the wire leads. Look out, guys... some of those hospital people go wild with a razor! My nurse was kind, though, and left me mostly intact. Afterward, I didn't look like I had walked into a fan.
Then came the heart-stress drug, Lexiscan.
I was told that I might feel some side effects like headache, "queezy" stomach, etc. I did feel something like a very mild headache, but that's all. It went away in 2-3 minutes as they said it would. The stress test involved lying there while the Dr's watched the ECG machine and they told me that it looked good.
After about 5 minutes the leads were removed and it was time to go to the imaging room for an MRI-like scan of my heart. It is actually an MPI scan.
But, before I left for the imaging room, I felt a strange numbness travel down both arms and a sharp pain in the middle of my chest, which I recognized as "angina". Then, my chest felt like it was being pressed inward from the left and the right, as if to crush it in the middle.
That really hurt. My breathing became quite deep, like I couldn't get enough air. I, of course, thought that I was having a heart attack. The doctors were called immediately and they came in and restarted the ECG machine. My Dr told me that the reading had changed.
They stayed for about 15 minutes because that's how long I felt miserable and it took that much time for the ECG to return to "normal".
The Dr's conclusion was that I had REACTED to the Lexiscan itself, and that there was no further need for concern.
Then, after a 30 minute wait, I went back to the imaging room for a second scan. After that I was ready to return home.
Each scan took exactly 15 minutes and the whole deal lasted from 7:00am to 9:30am. The hardest thing about the scans was not falling asleep.
On Nov 24, I had a follow-up appt with the doctor. He said that other patients have had the same reaction to the drug that I had. Each one thought that he or she was having a heart attack. So did I. I still do. The doctor says no, though. And he isn't cute.
Five or six years ago, I apparently did have a heart attack while mowing the lawn. It was much worse than what I described above and lasted more than half an hour. My wife thought it was a gall bladder problem and since it resolved itself, we did nothing further.
At the time of my cardiac arrest, 2 1/2 years ago, the Cath-Lab results "showed" that at some time in the past, I had a "small heart attack" that was focused in my left circumflex artery, which appeared to be almost completely blocked with signs of tissue damage in that area.
Well, back to my follow-up appt. The doctor told me that the scan had showed a heart anomaly that is fairly rare, and occurs at birth. To sum it up, I DON'T HAVE A CIRCUMFLEX ARTERY! Normally, this artery branches off of the left coronary artery in front of the heart, and snakes it way around to the back of the heart. There, it mostly delivers oxygen to the rear of the left ventricle.
Well, in my case, that artery originates in the upper rear of my heart, "somewhere". It would require invasive procedures to find out exactly where. From what I understand, that artery, being behind the heart, is subjected to pressure from the major vessels, to or from the heart, and maybe from the rear of the chest, itself. (I'm 75 lbs overweight, mostly in the gut. That pressure can constrict the artery and reduce the blood flow, resulting in the lack of oxygen to the left ventricle that causes the chest pains.
Putting in a stent probably won't help much and it would be a difficult and risky procedure. So, drug treatment is the best choice for now.
The drug is the same nitro-glycerine that is commonly prescribed for patients with chest pain, known as angina. However, it's a fairly hefty dose and comes in the form of a 24 hour timed-release pill, that is swallowed. I've taken the pill four times so far and I've noticed a slight headache that occurs every couple of hours but goes away in just minutes. During the first few days it was worse but now is hardly noticeable.
Good thing: I have noticed that sudden exertion, such as climbing stairs or leaning over to pick up things, no longer results in the chest pain nor the heavy breathing. So, I'm happy about that. Now, I have to lose about 70 pounds and maybe there won't be any more heart trouble.
I've told my Son to have his heart looked at (with that same scan, but without the stress drug) and it may be that my older Brother, and my Father, may have had the same displaced artery.
That's it. I don't believe that anyone should avoid the "Lexican Stress Test" because of anything I've said. I will do it again if there's a reason for it, but I'm very wary of that stress drug.
And without objection... "case closed"!
I hope that the telling of my experience will be of some help to others.
Many thanks to each of you who have have replied to my post. Other matters have competed, along with Thanksgiving to take up my time, so I have been slow to respond. For that, I'm sorry. I am responding to everyone.