Tony Blair’s heart

Tony Blair’s heart
: Tony Blair ended up in the hospital with an irregular heartbeat.

I share the condition (an indirect outcropping of September 11).

I’m not a doctor and don’t play one on television but as a patient, here’s what I know:

The condition, atrial fibrillation, is not immediately life-threatening; the danger is if blood collects in the heart as it pumps inefficiently and forms clots that can cause strokes. (Ventricular fibrilation, on the other hand, is immediately life-threatening.)

Afib, as we vets call it, is treated with various drugs that slow the heart-rate (which is usually elevated at first) until the heart rhythm “converts.” If that doesn’t work, they may get to shocking the heart electrically back into line. That is what they did to Blair; I’m surprised they got to it so soon in his first attack. But, again, I’m no doctor.

On an ongoing basis, I take beta blockers (which slow down my running and probably dull my intelligence) and a daily aspirin (to prevent those clots) and that’s pretty much it.

I have found that anger, surprise, upset, or other strong emotions can bring this on. So I do wonder what the question period would do to the old rhythm. I wonder whether, if he shares my experience, it might make him more cautious. But I doubt it. He’s still Blair. He’s tougher than I am.

Blair and I are hardly alone. Bill Bradley shares the condition. Dick Cheney, on the other hand, is at risk for deadly ventricular fibrillation and that’s why he had a pacemaker installed.

: Read the comments to hear from someone who appears to know what he’s talking about (unlike me).

I can just tell you what it’s like to feel the heart becoming uncooperative.

: UPDATE: The Guardian’s political editor seems to wish that this leads Blair closer to the exit door. That’s absurd and wrong-headed.

Wonder whether they would suggest that Yasser Arafat’s health should also lead him to the exit. Or the Pope’s.

: David Blaine had irregular heartbeats. And people pelted him with eggs, too.

  • Well, it’s guaranteed he didn’t lie about for ages on a trolley in the corridor when he was rolled in the door of the A & E section.

  • New onset atrial fib of less than 48 hours duration can be aggressively cardioverted with drugs or electricity; the earlier the discovery the more the tendency to electrically cardiovert rather than to wait for drugs to kick in.
    And of course there are other factors in the decision tree; hemodynamic stability, WPW syndrome (a conduction defect), heart function, etc. No telling what pushed the NHS cardiologist in the direction he went.

  • Just found this post via Feedster. I too suffer from A-fib and have been cardioverted multiple times. From what I’ve read, Mr. Blair had an ablation (not cardioversion), which is prevents future onsets, not conversion to sinus rhythm during current fibrillations. In the ablation, a catheter is inserted in an artery and an electrical center in the heart is essentially burned out.