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heart attacks, HIV & anesthesiology
Jul 6, 2004

Dear Doctors: Nine months ago, I was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma and went into the hospital for tests and my first chemo treatment. Two days after release from the hospital, I had a heart attack. My HIV meds at the time were Kaletra, Invirase and Fuzeon and my cholesterol and triglyceride levels were high (over 200 but not insanely high). During that first stay in the hospital, I also had a port placed in my chest for the chemotherapy treatment, and received anesthesia. My question is this: Now that I'm having the port removed, I was told that anesthesiology can cause blood thinning and heart attacks, so I am having the port-removal surgery done with local numbing meds, and not anesthesia. What do you feel are the chances that the original anesthesia may have caused my heart attack? Or was it more likely the HIV meds, which caused my high cholesterol/trigyceride levels? Or the trauma of having chemotherapy? Or all of the above? Thank you for providing all of us with an invaluable service!

Response from Dr. Henry

Good questions. Heart attacks even in the setting of HIV infection with treatment are usually precipatated by standard risk factors for coronary artery disease (smoking, high blood presure, diabetes, family history, sedentary life style, high LDL cholesterol, low HDL cholesterol). I don't know what risk factors you may have. Protease inhibitors can often cause unfavorable lipid disturbances that can aggravate other pre-existing risk factors). Some patients may have a genetic predisposition to coronary artery disease that is increased with HIV infection or some HIV drugs. Anesthesia is usually not a precipating cause for a heart attack but patients can have blood clots or heart irritation (by a catheter) that could trigger an arrhythmia that could result in a heart attack. Chemotherapy doesn't usually trigger a heart attack though some drugs can cause heart damage. A good cardiologist along with your HIV doc should be able to somewhat sort out these various possibilities to offer some level of explanation regarding what happened in your case. KH

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