Coronary Artery Dissection

by Susan

In Victoria, BC

In Victoria, BC

I don't know how to begin, every time I think of the events I just get teary eyed.

I was discharged on the 4th day from the hospital after having a c-section with my last baby then that night a terrible chest pain woke me up. I thought my milk was starting to come so I sat up and stayed on my rocking chair for a good portion of the night. The chest pain somehow slowly went away but I had this funny feeling on my chest accompanied by a headache on and off after that.

Prior to my open heart surgery, I had about 4 visits to the local hospital and they would do blood work, ECG and X-ray.

At one point they thought I had a pulmonary embolism, as a result I was sent to the Red Deer hospital for a scan twice but nothing was showing. There was even a diagnosis of Gastric Acid Reflux Disease and was prescribed a medication to control it. All these things never worked for I continued to have unexplained chest pain, headaches and high blood pressure.

I had even said the one time I showed up in emerge that I was having a heart attack but I ended up getting discharged in the evening.

I guess there was no indication that I had one. It went on for days. I believed the doctors that have seen me at the local hospital for the fact that I worked with them.

One Sunday morning, my husband suggested we go to Calgary to visit my sisters. He thought the change in environment would help make me feel better.

Somehow my chest pain had gotten worst when we got to my sister's place. I was crying by then so my one sister suggested we better go to the Foothills Hospital. I still did not want to go and told her I didn't want to wait for hours and hours at the waiting room. She made a phone call to find out how busy emerge was and was told it was not bad.

She insisted we go and thank God for her. I still waited in the waiting room and was not put right away in a room because it was full. Although my sister is a Reg. Nurse at the Foothills, I did not jumped the line and waited like everyone else.

The pain got worst so finally, they took me in and did blood work and ECG. Next thing I knew, a doctor came and told me that there had been changes in my ECG. Then 2 cardiologist came and were supposed to do a test but I ended up having 2 episodes of chest pains that I would say were the worst of all. I ended up in the cath lab. and I woke up during the night to find out I was in Cardiac Care Unit (CCU). That showed how sick I was.

The next day a group of doctors came and I asked them what was going to happen next. I was told, they will have to review my file and decide what would be the best option. After that, the cardiac surgeon came, followed by the rest of the team.

It was decided I was going to have surgery. In short, I ended up with an emergency quadruple bypass. There was extensive dissection to my arteries I learned later and apparently it was brought on by hormonal imbalance during post-partum.

It is rare condition and women that have it usually will not make it. Also, my cardiac surgeon has mentioned that there was an old damage she has seen in my right coronary artery.

I told her that after having my second baby I went through same symptoms shortly after mydischarge from the hospital but I was diagnosed then with a migraine. The symptoms I had then were not as pronounced like the last episode that led to my surgery.

I hope my story will not scare women to get pregnant, my case was rare. I hope it will enlighten some people to listen to what there bodies say and be their own advocate. I am a Reg. Nurse and told the local doctors then what I felt but my only regret was, I did not insist.

I do not blame anybody, I believe that things happen for a reason. What matters most is I am alive and be with my family that is why I am sharing my story.

Comments for Coronary Artery Dissection

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by: Cathy

Hello, I wanted to share my story. January 4, 1994, I had a MI. 3 months after having my 3rd child. Dr. did a cath. saw a 90% blockage, put me on heprin IV for 5 days, did another cath. said blockage was much better (Dr. couldn't explain why)another couple days on heperin and scheduled me for another cath. this time he was going to do an angio during this cath. But, during this cath. they stopped, a few other doctors came to review my case, and decided not to do the angio, they saw the dissection and said if they were to perform an angio, there would be a great chance of damage to the entire artery. The Dr. explained to me that the coronary artery is made up of 3 layers of skin, which separated and collapsed which caused the MI, and the risk of the angio could tear the layers of skin which would be very dangerous. This is when I first was diagnosed with postpartum coronary artery dissection, I was told that I should never get pregnant again, the risk of this happening again, was very high. No surgery was necessary, Dr. put me on pill form of nitroglycerin, he explained to me that the 3 layers of skin needed to attached themselves back together, since nitro opened up the artery, this will keep them close and hopefully will knit themselves together. The risks of another cath. to see if healing was too risky. I followed my Dr. advice, stress tests, ekg, echos., etc.

3 years later, I thought I was having an anxiety attack, but couldn't get in under control, went to the er and was diag. with VTAC. Still unsure if there is a connection with MI or not. I have heard that VTAC can happened when the heart has damage. Did any of you develope irregular heart beats after your MI? For me, this is scarier than the MI. I feel like my heart is healed, I was concerned about menopause changing hormones, but my Dr. said, they are different from being pregnant, not to worry. I don't worry about having another MI, this VTAC scares me, I had EMS studies, what I understand is my own adreneline is the cause, and I need to remain calm. I wish life was that easy. Well enough for now. Thanks for reading my story and I hope all of you are feeling better and living a good life.

SCAD update on my husband
by: DMartin

Nancy, so sorry to hear about your husband. Hopefully the rehab will help.

To update what happened since my last post, on Feb 24, my husband called me at work saying he had taken two nitro with no relief so he called for an ambulance. Turns out he was having another heart attack caused from continued dissection below where the stents were placed. It had caused a near 100% blockage. They decided that the only course of action was to do the CABG x 3. The surgery was done on 3/2/12. All together, he spent 12 days in the hospital with his surgery (18 days this year).

So far, he has done well but what a scary ride! Although he had a lot of anxiety, we just returned from a 7-day cruise & I think it was good therapy for both of us! He is starting cardiac rehab this afternoon, so we'll see how that goes, anticipating he will do fine!

My Husband also has SCAD
by: Nancy

My husband who was the healthiest person I knew suffered from SCAD 11 months ago May 2011 at the age of 51. There was no surgical intervention and to date there has been no sign of healing in the artery. He is being treated with medication and can't yet return to work. The worst part is there are so many unknowns. No one can tell us us
exactly what his limitations should be. Scheduled to start a cardiac rehab program soon so hopefully we will know more then.

Me too ...
by: Karen P

I had my second child by c-section and a week to the day later, I was being rushed to the hospital with what I thought was anxiety. Once there, I was told that I had SCAD but they didn't want to do stents because they were afraid the tear would rip more. Therefore, they waited. 5 days later, another episode hit and I had the CABG surgery.

Although I am coming up on a year, I've still been having symptoms. What I've noticed is just before my period, I have increased chest pressure. I'm just wondering if anyone else has had this happening to them?

Triple Coronary Artery Dissection, 57 yr. old male
by: DMartin

I know that although this is a very rare thing, it is more common in women, as I understand it, but Sunday morning, 1/22/12, my husband had what he thought was reflux as we were getting dressed to go to church. After about 15-20 minutes of increasing pain, we headed to the ER by car, but as we were passing an EMS station, decided to stop in & was transported to the local ER by ambulance. The medic saw immediately that something was not right, even though initial EKG was normal... All initial EKG's and the heart enzyme levels were totally normal but he was in excruciating pain, more than I thought was possible for any human being, even with enough pain meds to knock out anyone. Thankfully, the ER doctor wouldn't give up. He ordered another EKG, which showed he was actively having a heart attack & within 30 minutes, a cardiac team had been assembled & he was in the cath lab where the triple coronary artery dissection was diagnosed. This totally perplexed all of the doctors, as none of them had ever seen this or knew what to do about it. They have chosen not to do any bypasses at this time & treat with meds & severe lifestyle changes. We are now only on day 4, so it is yet to be seen how this treatment will work out. Hoping for the best!

by: Nicky

Hi there,
I too had a coronary artery dissection, but not related to pregnancy (although I have two children). My mum has the condition too, and has had a triple heart bypass. Does anyone know of any other cases of it running in the family, because apparently this is particularly rare?

by: Susan

To the moms that had similar experience like myself, I appreciate your stories as well. Making it known to people that there is such a disease during post-partum called Spontaneous Coronary Artery Dissection. Maybe it is more common than what the medical professionals know due to improper diagnosis. It should be a red flag when a female shows up in emerge with symptoms of a heart attack or stroke after having a child even after three months. A similar story was told to me when his sister was diagnosed with same 3 months into her post partum.

Since, I had quad bypass I am being treated same as somebody that had your regular heart attack. Medications after an event are usually a beta-blocker, ACE inhibitor, statin, low dose aspirin. This is to keep the grafts patent. It might be slightly different for some due to complications and their reaction to medications. I am not on all of the mentioned drug protocol. I also underwent a short period of depression but I got through it without medication. Thanks to a wonderful husband and good family support. When things go wrong for me, I just say to myself that it could be worse. I had been there, done that and I emerged as a stronger person. With strong will and faith, anyone can overcome a major health setback.

I do lots of exercise, eating better and the best is just having a positive outlook in life. I have not seen my cardiologist for the last 3 years and had only been following up with my fam. doctor on an annual basis. No more cardiac issues since and hoping it never happens again.

If somebody wants to e-mail me privately do so. I may not respond to your e-mails right away but I will.

8 days post-pardom
by: Naomi

Seems that by sharing your story- so many others with the same story are encouraged and blessed that they're not alone. I'm a 32F and had a Spontaneous (Left) Coronary Artery Dissection (SCAD) and under-went a triple bypass (Oct. 2010)8 days after my baby was born. (I did have a slight headache the day before this all happened) Had an L-Vad put in for 10 days while my heart healed. I had a stroke 2 days before surgery to take it out so that pushed back the time-line. I'm not sure the doctors knew what to do with me! I feel like I'm their guinie-pig. Lots of tests and meds these days. I'm just so thankful to be alive and home now to appreciate my family and friends. No lasting symptoms from the stroke either. Having a strong support team has really gotten me through these last 6 months. Thank you for sharing your story here.

It happened to me too!
by: Amy


I just wanted to let you know the same thing happened to me! I was a week post partum with my second child and I had to be rushed to he hospital and also underwent emergency quad bypass surgery after they attempted. I then had a pulmonary embolism a week after the surgery.

I am 10 weeks post op. I would be interested in hearing from anyone as to how there recovery after surgery went. Would also be interested in what kinds of meds you are on and what kind of follow up care you are receiving.

I am glad I stumbled upon this site and as much as I wouldn't wish this on anyone, am comforted to hear there are other women out there who know how I am feeling right now.

Please don't hesitate to post or we could email privately.

Best wishes,


Happened to me also
by: Jennie

Hello, I am glad that you are doing well. My story is on here also...postpartum coronary artery dissection. They told me the same thing about the hormone imbalance thing. Your story is so similar to mine, that it is eerie. I only had a triple bypass though. You are right, you should listen to your body and tell the docs exactly what YOU think is going on with you. I am so glad that you are well and I do not feel so alone when I hear stories like mine.

To Susan
by: Anonymous

Dear Susan. You should be very proud that you have told your story. Make sure that you live your life to the fullest. Thank you for your story. From Peter in Australia, a fellow Quad bypass survivor.

Thank you, Susan.
by: Sandra

It was a pleasure to meet you in Calgary, Susan - and thank you for sharing your story!

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