Dr. Roach: Disease can be symptomless
Dear Dr. Roach: I recently went to my family doctor, complaining of left-arm pain and heartburn-like pain in my throat area. He said that he could admit me to the hospital for two days of testing or that it could be a pinched nerve in my neck. It was my choice not to go to the hospital, so he recommended meloxicam for a possible pinched nerve. As it turns out, my symptoms later became so uncomfortable that I decided to go to the ER three days after seeing my doctor. It was a serious blockage of a main artery to my heart, and emergency surgery was performed to put a stent in. I’m lucky to have made it in time.
I never thought to ask him if he could have given me an electrocardiogram there in his office, and some people, including my intensive-care nurse, asked why he didn’t. Because he didn’t offer to test me in his office, I’m considering changing doctors. I like him and he has always given me good care in the past, so I’m not sure what to do. I feel that had he done the ECG that day, my problem could have been diagnosed much sooner and possibly prevented my heart attack.
Why wouldn’t he have checked my heart function right there with the electrocardiogram? He did check my blood pressure and listen to my heart, but those seemed to be normal. Can you give me your opinion on this? I’m a 64-year-old male.
Dear F.M.: Without being there, I can’t give an opinion on if your doctor should have insisted on your being admitted to the hospital, but I am printing your letter to once again emphasize that heart disease, even serious blockages, can have minimal or no symptoms. It sounds like your doctor suspected heart disease, and I bet he regrets not insisting you be admitted. It’s a judgment call, and you have to consider not only the symptoms, but also the risk factors. Just being a 64-year-old man is a risk factor; if you had other risks, such as elevated blood pressure, cholesterol, a history of smoking or a family history of heart disease, that would make heart disease more likely.
The electrocardiogram isn’t a perfect test, and although it may have been abnormal at the time, it’s also possible it could have been perfectly normal. In hindsight, I wonder if your knowing your EKG was normal would have kept you from going to the emergency room when you did.
To me, this isn’t so egregious that I would suggest you find a different doctor.
Dear Dr. Roach: Can you place plastics in the dishwasher?
Dear R.E.: Most plastics are safe, but you should put only plastics labeled “dishwasher safe” in the dishwasher, and placing on the top rack reduces the heat the plastic is subjected to. Never reuse any plastic that has been partially melted by dishwasher or microwave.
Email questions to ToYourGoodHealth@med.cornell.edu.