When Ruth Pahlke came home Friday evening from a Relay For Life event, she found she was unusually tired.
The next day, while packing for a trip, Pahlke felt completely sapped of energy and experienced pressure in her chest.
She went to the emergency room at the University of Alberta Hospital and was admitted for what doctors confirmed was a heart attack.
The unusual part is that she didn’t have any blockage in her heart arteries — the cause of a traditional heart attack — Pahlke had a different, relatively unknown, type of attack. The condition is known as myocardial infarction with non-obstructive coronary arteries, or Minoca.
Dr. Kevin Bainey is a cardiologist at the Mazankowski Alberta Heart institute and happened to be Pahlke’s doctor. From 2002 to 2014, Bainey conducted a study examining over 36,000 heart attack patients in Alberta. The results led to a few surprising conclusions.
We found that the incidence of Minoca was about six per cent. In terms of their profile, this condition was found more commonly in females, as opposed to traditional heart attacks where they tend to be more common in males.
The reason behind the increased risk for women to suffer Minoca is still mostly unknown, as the research around it is still in early stages.
Another implication of the study came in the rate of resurgence surrounding Minoca.
In hospital, these patients had a one per cent chance of dying,” Bainey said, “but out at one year, these patients, their chance of death or having another heart attack was about five per cent. And out to five years, the chances of these patients dying was about 11 per cent.
Bainey said that because the attacks aren’t the result of arterial blockage, patients with signs of Minoca are sometimes sent home soon after their admittance, often prematurely. For this reason, Bainey made sure that Pahlke was not discharged until her condition could be properly treated.
We need to be more vigilant about investigating the ultimate cause, because it has implications on the appropriate therapies for these patients,” Bainey said. “(Pahlke) needs to find out a cause before she goes home.
Pahlke, sitting in her hospital room with one of her daughters and a grandchild visiting her, expressed gratitude over the diligence surrounding her care.
I’m very fortunate to have (Dr. Bainey) as the first doctor they got ahold of, because it could quite possibly have happened that way, that they had just sent me home.
Bainey’s research study can be found in the International Journal of Cardiology.
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