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March 12, 2012 -- 7:25pm PDT

Myocardial Bridging: Heart Patients and Social Networking
Reyna Robles
Reyna Robles

Angioplasty.Org's Heart Patient Forum contains 10,000 posts in 200 topics; it receives 50,000 page views a month, from Boston and Biloxi to Britain and Bangladesh. Patients share stories and questions about heart disease, stents, angioplasty, bypass surgery, allergic reactions, medications and the occasional "odd" topic -- in this case "Myocardial Bridging".

Well, not so odd to Reyna Robles, one of the many women who have posted to this topic, trying to find help, trying to find others in their situation, trying to find answers.

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Myocardial bridging is an anatomical abnormality, one where the coronary artery actually is routed through the heart muscle, instead of sitting on top of it. While a number of people may have this anomoly, only a few experience the sometimes debilitating symptoms -- in these cases a significant part of the artery is buried in the muscle. The problem is that the standard tests, stress, nuclear stress and even angiography, often show no problem -- the results are normal -- and these patients, often women, are told that there is nothing wrong; sometimes they are told the symptoms may be stress-related, or "in their head."

Luckily, patients searching the Web for information on this condition find our Forum Topic, "Treatment for Myocardial Bridging" (it's usually in the first two or three "finds" on Google) and they read other patients' stories, symptoms and, most importantly, treatments.

Reyna (screen name "Swissdots") first posted to our Forum over a year ago. As she wrote to me recently:

"I was in the midst of finding help for my MB issues. Those were difficult times and I was in so much pain. This forum was helpful to me. It was the communications with Bill & Melinda as well as the patient stories which I found to be most helpful. I was relieved to know I was not alone. Something therapeutic about that....

"I have learned that one must be courageous & persistent. The Angioplasty.Org forum was instrumental in my journey to wellness. Thank you for making the forum available to people. It is making a positive tangible difference in our lives."

Of course, the real credit goes to Reyna for persevering. And to Women's Health at Stanford which she connected to, and to its Clinical Director, Dr. Jennifer Tremmel, who diagnosed her problem, and arranged the surgical procedure with Dr. Michael Fischbein: a procedure which changed Reyna's life. Reyna's story has been featured in Stanford Hospital's Health Notes, and also in the Stanford-produced video below:

Reyna also posted her success story to our Forum. There have been a number of other patients who have shared their successes, some at Stanford, some at other institutions.

The main thing is something Reyna said, and it's something that many many patients have expressed on our Forums: it's therapeutic to know that you're not alone with your problems, that others, around the world, are experiencing similar feelings and symptoms. These connections, made possible by the internet and social networking, are most definitely good medicine!

You can read my interview with Dr. Jennifer Tremmel on a completely different topic in Angioplasty.Org's special section on the Transradial Approach, another innovation in the treatment of patients (especially women) with coronary artery disease.

And heart patients can get more information on a number of topics in our Patient Center.

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