About predicting heart attacks

Here are the comments of a heart surgeon written after all the media fury that occurred after TV newsman, Tim Russert, suddenly died of a heart attack in 2008.

To use a medical system intelligently, it is important to have a clear understanding of its limits.

The article below is from the blog Dr. Wes
June 17, 2008

The Tim Russert Fallout

It’s hard for me not to sit amazed at the job medicine has done convincing people we can control heart attacks. One only needs to review the many news stories regarding news journalist Tim Russert’s untimely death to see the public fallout of our efforts to “educate” the populace about “screening tests” used to “prevent” the likelihood of having a heart attack. You see, with Mr. Russert’s death, those tests have suffered a huge public relations nightmare.

Cholesterol screening and statins: dead in the water.

CT scanning for detection of plague to prevent heart attack: harpooned.

Stress testing to assure you’re protected against the Big One: pulverized.

Not one damn thing predicted (or prevented) Mr. Russert’s death.

Oh sure, there’s plenty of others who want to jump right in to promote the next great lifestyle modification, rather than those damn cholesterol drugs as a way to save your life, provided of course, you buy their book. Or those who promise reduced mortality if everyone just got an ultrasound of their carotid arteries, even though this test still can’t predict acute plaque rupture and the onset of a heart attack like Mr. Russert’s.

You see, the entire industrial complex of healthcare technology and innovation was shaken, not because Mr. Russert was a nice guy and great journalist, but rather because they will have to explain why their technology isn’t worth a damn at predicting heart attacks.

Welcome, my friends, to the world of real-life medicine rather than marketing.

-via Dr.Wes


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