Why Do They Call a Heart Blockage the Widow Maker?

By Elizabeth Genge

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.

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.

References

About the Author

Originally from California, Elizabeth Genge now lives in Atlanta, GA. She began writing professionally in 2008 and currently writes for Demand Studios as well as Textbroker. She holds a degree in theatre from the University of California, Santa Barbara.

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