Friday, June 06, 2008

Fun in hospitals

I had another fainting incident. That would be the fifth in my lifetime if the count is correct and the first in the last 10 years. Fortunately, there appears to be nothing wrong with me, although we’re still doing tests to be sure. (In fact, the attending doctor said that based on the EKG it was obvious that I have a very strong heart which is the only significant concern. Plus my blood pressure was perfect.)

Anyway, the cardiologist, in addition to showing me several techniques to use when I feel lightheaded, explained that a full 3% of all emergency room visits are for fainting. And of that percent, somewhere around 90% are totally unexplainable incidents (i.e. have no medical diagnosis). I had no idea that Colombia was experiencing a fainting epidemic (and I wonder if the altitude is a relevant factor).

My official diagnosis, as of this moment, is that I have syncope which is a fancy doctor way of saying “tendency to faint for unexplained reasons” (or more officially “temporary loss of consciousness and posture, described as "fainting" or "passing out." It's usually related to temporary insufficient blood flow to the brain.”) I know all about this from reading on the Internets and, more usefully, religiously watching Dr. House. The cardiologist was very calm about it all and told me not to worry. Assuming the initial round of tests comes back normal we still may do more (my wife will insist) and if so, I kinda hope they make me do the tilt test so I can see what that’s really like. And, of course, I remain opposed to any and all invasive tests that involve large needles.

Really though, I’m not particularly worried about all this. I’ve been through the basics before and everything turned out fine. But it’s good to do another round of tests just to confirm that I’m healthy as an ox. At any rate, for people with syncope there are two things in particular they need to do. One is to drink plenty of fluids. Sounds good to me. The other is to have a high salt diet. Again, no complaints. The reason for the salt is that most patients with syncope suffer from hypotension (low blood pressure) and I know that a doctor somewhere once told me that I have a tendency for lower than normal blood pressure (although within a safe range). So, next time I go eat a very large piece of perfectly cooked meat, I’m salting it down. Speaking of which…



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