Difficult Decision To Make

June 14, 2011

Ever hear of Wolff Parkinson White syndrome? No? Neither had I. WPW, as it is more commonly known, is a “syndrome of pre-excitation of the ventricles of the heart due to an accessory pathway known as the bundle of Kent,” according to Wikipedia. It basically means that there’s an extra electrical pathway in the heart that’s not supposed to be there. WPW occurs in approximately 0.1 and 0.3 percent of the general population. And wouldn’t you know…I’ve just been diagnosed with it. What does this mean? Well, the majority of people diagnosed with WPW remain asymptomatic for their entire lives. However, sometimes it can lead to problems, like heart palpitations, or the feeling of the heart “fluttering,” shortness of breath, or, in about 0.6 percent of the individuals that have it…it can lead to sudden death due to a sudden violent arrhythmia. That means that there’s a chance…even if the odds are against it…that this could kill me.

What am I going to do about it? Well, here are my choices. I can do nothing. In all probability, speaking from a statistical standpoint, this will not effect me. Like I said, most people that have this don’t ever experience any symptoms. Or, alternatively, I could have a procedure done called an ablation. What that involves is inserting a catheter into an artery near the groin (yes, you read that right), and feeding it up to the heart. When the tip reaches the heart, the extra pathway that causes the fast heart rate is destroyed using a type of energy called radio frequency. Essentially, they zap the problem area with a mild electrical shock. If this is accomplished successfully, then usually that is the end of the problem. The success rate for the procedure is between about 85 and 95 percent.

So, I’ve got a tough call to make. My cardiologist recommends that I do the procedure. Even if I haven’t had any symptoms yet, he feels that it’s best to deal with the condition on the off chance that it becomes a problem. My sister Ann, a newly minted doctor, is of the opposing viewpoint. She says that since I haven’t had any actual symptoms that I’m aware of, I should leave it alone. If at some point in the future it becomes a problem, then I can act. After all, any surgery carries certain risks, and if I don’t have the procedure, that won’t be an issue. Basically, there are risks involved with either option. The percentage for me of nothing happening is good if I don’t do the procedure, and it’s still pretty good if I end up having it done. The whole thing makes me nervous, I’ll admit. I’m not freaking out too terribly much, as the odds seem to be with me, but any time you’re dealing with an issue involving the heart…one that could, potentially, kill you, even if odds are it won’t…some anxiety is bound to come up. So, I have some thinking to do. I’ll mention here on the site when a decision is made, and I’ll update everybody as to any progress with the whole deal. And if this does end up killing me before I have a chance to update the blog again, I just wanted to say thank you very much to everyone who has supported what passes for my career over the years. It’s much appreciated, really. More soon…maybe.

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