Short circuit can cause sudden death

Short circuit can cause sudden death
Abadly-wired house can end up in flames from a short circuit. But how many of us know that the heart can have a short circuit too? As with a home, so with a heart. It is enmeshed in ‘wiring’ for electrical pulses to circulate. It may sound strange, but the human heart has a conduction system — A natural pace maker, which helps the heart generate impulses. When there is a short circuit in the heart, it goes into the tachycardia mode, beating 300/400 times per minute, compared with the normal timing of 72 beats. During this time, the dead areas, sometimes found in the heart, become electrically charged. The blood pressure falls sharply and the heart is unable to pump blood to the vital organs of the body. The result: sudden death.

If there is something amiss in your heart’s ‘wiring’, you need a 24x7 mechanic to avert this short circuit. A gadget called implantable automatic cardioverter defibrillator can save you from this unknown catastrophe.

So, go get your heart’s electric system evaluated. If there’s a problem, doctors can put a guard in place.

Surprisingly, a short circuit can be caused by a simple viral infection too. Once, a young man of 25 came to me with breathlessness and dizziness. He had taken a fall after becoming unconscious. His heart function had decreased to mere 30 per cent of the normal. After giving him an electric shock to bring his heart beat back on track, we got him fitted with a defibrillator. And he is doing fine now. The cost of the implant is nothing compared with what it buys for you — life.

Since most people are unaware of this, they are unmindful of the cataclysm it can cause. A heart attack does not necessarily kill, but a disruption in its electric wiring can reduce your chance of survival to nil. Yet, strangely enough, we are more afraid of a heart attack than a short circuit. Ignorance should not be bliss in matters of heart.

Electro physiologists are specialists who can take care of this critical aspect. Yet it’s a discipline hardly known in India. In the United States, a lot of deaths are averted by this non-descript tribe of useful doctors.

Most people think that a bypass surgery or an angioplasty is the answer to all heart ailments. But that’s not really so. Anyone with a doubt, or family history of heart ailment, should get a check-up done. An echo cardiogram can give you an indication of whether you need to take steps to protect your heart. If your heart muscles are prone to electrical disturbance, it’s better to be equipped with a defibrillator.

The urgency to spread awareness on this is self-evident. It may save the lives of thousands. But one problem is the lack of enough qualified personnel. There are only 20 electro physiologists in the country and only two in Delhi. Time, perhaps, to give more importance to this speciality, if we are to avoid so many mysterious cardiac deaths.

The writer is an electro physiologist with Apollo Hospital

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