Why Do They Call a Heart Blockage the Widow Maker?

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There is no term in the medical lexicon more ominous than "widow maker." This condition, a full and complete blockage of the left anterior descending coronary artery, is fairly rare but exceptionally lethal, having the ability to kill a patient in an instant. This condition's etiology will be described in detail.

Features

  • A widow maker blockage of the left anterior coronary artery has all the signs of a standard heart attack and in fact has the same cause, i.e., myocardial blockage. The distinction is in the severity and location of the blockage.

Treatment

  • The only immediate treatment possible when a widow maker heart attack occurs is the insertion of a cardiac stent. This pushes the arterial blockage up against the arterial wall, thereby allowing bloodflow to resume.

Significance

  • From the time symptoms present themselves, there is only a roughly 5-minute window of time to relieve the arterial blockage. If this blockage is not corrected within this window, death is nearly certain.

Considerations

  • The "New England Journal of Medicine" states that 1 of 50 patients annually are mistakenly diagnosed with a far less serious ailment and sent home only to later become gravely ill. There is said to be no "foolproof" test for diagnosing a widow maker blockage. The symptoms of a widow maker heart attack are fundamentally the same as a standard heart attack.

Famous Ties

  • In 2008, broadcast journalist Tim Russert died from a widow maker heart attack in his office at NBC Studios. In 2002, 33-year-old St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Darrell Kyle was found dead, reportedly from a widow maker heart attack as well.

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