Charles J. Davidson, MD Comments on Coronary Artery Disease and the Death of Tim Russert
Tim Russert, long time moderator of Meet the Press, passed away on June 13, 2008 at the age of 58 from a sudden myocardial infarction (heart attack). Autopsy results found that Mr. Russert had an enlarged heart and significant coronary artery disease (CAD).
"Tim Russert demonstrates the unpredictability of CAD as his sudden cardiac death occurred from a plaque rupture of a coronary artery. He had known CAD that was being treated with medical therapy. Medical therapy has been effective in reducing the risk of death and heart attack in patients with risk factors for coronary disease and those with established coronary disease. Despite this, CAD still remains the leading cause of death in the United States," states Charles J. Davidson, MD.
In addition to being an interventional cardiologist, Dr. Davidson is medical director, Center for Coronary Disease at the Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute, chief, Cardiac Catheterization Laboratory, and director, Interventional Cardiology. He is also professor of Medicine at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine.
CAD is a slow process in which deposits of fat, cholesterol, and calcium build up inside the artery. These deposits are called plaque. Like the inside of a rusty water pipe, the artery wall becomes rough, hard, and more narrow. When the heart vessels are affected, blood flow and oxygen to the heart is decreased. Over time, the plaque can rupture and cause a blood clot to form. With the plaque, this clot can further block the blood and oxygen supply to the heart muscle.
Screening for CAD
According to Dr. Davidson, "A stress test can be an excellent screening method for CAD. However, in patients at high risk and those with unexplained symptoms, further testing is often necessary to diagnose the extent of severity of CAD. Diagnostic cardiac catheterization can precisely define the nature of coronary disease in an individual patient."
Treatment for CAD
"Beyond medical therapy, mechanical treatments of CAD can help to improve life and increase longevity. Coronary artery bypass surgery (CABG) and percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI) are excellent, safe and effective reperfusion adjuncts to medical therapy," states Dr. Davidson.
"The best approach to patients with CAD often involves the synergy of optimal medical treatment, mechanical reperfusion and lifestyle alteration."