Dr. Volgman shares if a woman scheduling heart surgery would be better served by seeing a women's heart specialist.
I think that it’s too generalized. I think that there are great heart surgeons that are very good; the problem is recognition of the heart disease. What we are finding out from the studies that were done in women is that women don’t necessarily have smaller blood vessels in their hearts, it’s that we develop the plaque circumferentially so that it’s throughout the whole blood vessel, and it looks like there’s no blockage because the deposits are throughout the whole blood vessels. So it’s look like small blood vessels whereas it’s really plaque-laden blood vessels that look smaller because there’s less opening.
So that’s another misconception is that women have smaller arteries. If you have a smaller heart, then yes, maybe you have smaller arteries that are appropriate for the heart. But if you have risk factors such as diabetes, cigarette smoking, and you are having chest pain, and the doctor tells you your arteries are fine, they are just smaller, that’s when the flag should go up in the doctor and the patient’s mind that maybe they are not small arteries. Maybe they are just plaque-laden arteries that in the angiogram look smaller.
But there are more technologies now that are better at looking at soft plaque. The problem for women is that the radiation level is so high and the heart is in between our breasts, so whenever we get a 64-slice CT or one of the CAT scans, we are radiating our breasts so that we are putting ourselves at risk for breast cancer. So it’s a no-win situation, unfortunately.
About Dr. Volgman, M.D., F.A.C.C.:
Annabelle S. Volgman is associate professor of medicine and medical director of the Heart Center for Women at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago. Dr. Volgman graduated from Barnard College, Columbia University, and received her medical doctorate degree from Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, New York. She received her internal medicine training at the University of Chicago Hospitals and Clinics and her cardiology fellowship training at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago. She was a fellow in clinical electrophysiology at Northwestern Memorial Hospital and Illinois Masonic Medical Center under Richard Kehoe, M.D.
Dr. Volgman has published numerous abstracts and articles in multiple topics of women and heart disease as well as cardiac electrophysiology. She is currently president of the Metro Chicago Board of Directors of the AHA. She has been a prominent leader of the Go Red for Women movement and has received numerous awards from the American Heart Association. She has been listed in several lists of top doctors and was named a top doctor in the January 2008 issue of “Chicago Magazine.” She has been interviewed by numerous media about health issues and was featured in “O” magazine as Oprah Winfrey’s cardiologist.
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