A 78-year-old man with a medical history of gout and diverticulitis comes to the emergency department after developing chest discomfort while at a work function.
The patient’s overall clinical scenario is concerning enough that he is admitted to the hospital, where interventional cardiologists urgently perform a procedure called cardiac catheterization. When the doctors inject dye into the major coronary arteries that supply blood to the heart, they find that one of them is so severely blocked that they must immediately place two stents in an effort to restore normal blood flow and hopefully prevent cardiac tissue around it from dying.
Based on the information his campaign has released, this scenario seems to be what happened to Bernie Sanders on Tuesday evening. Without a close look at Sanders’ medical chart, it’s impossible to make a definitive diagnosis, and I have not reviewed the details of his case other than what has been reported to the media by his campaign. But even the scant information we have—that he had stents inserted overnight following an acute cardiac episode—is enough to be able to say: This was very likely a heart attack.
The recovery from a heart attack is different. Often, people are tired and most can expect a reduction in their tolerance for exercise and stress. Some are immobilized and require prolonged rehabilitation. It is also true that some patients recover quickly and return to normal. Without further information, we just do not know what the scenario looks like for the senator.
Considering that Sanders is a presidential candidate at the age of 78, I would suggest that it makes perfect sense to know if he has just had a heart attack and how much the damage has been. Patients with heart attacks have a shorter life expectancy and are more often affected by strokes. If he wants to continue in the race, he should certainly reveal a bit more information about his health.
The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views and opinions of Brigham and Women’s Hospital.