After Puneeth Rajkumar's death, a rush for heart checks

After Puneeth Rajkumar's death, a rush for heart checks in Bengaluru

The huge crowds at hospitals on Monday also strained Covid-19 safety protocols

Huge Number of patients waiting for treatment in Sri Jayadeva Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences and Research hospital in Bengaluru on Monday, 01 November 2021. Credit: DH Photo/SK Dinesh

After the death of fitness buff and Sandalwood actor Puneeth Rajkumar, people descended on hospitals in droves across Bengaluru on Monday to get their own hearts checked.

At Sri Jayadeva Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences and Research, several first-time cardiac OPD patients underwent tests and CT angiograms to determine their cardiovascular health.

“Our weekday influx is generally about 1,200 patients per day with low OPD numbers on holidays and on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Today, however, the hospital received about 1,600 people which imposed considerable strain on doctors, nurses and support staff,” explained the director of the hospital, Dr C N Manjunath.

The huge crowds at hospitals on Monday also strained Covid-19 safety protocols.

“Out of an estimated 30% increase in the number of people who turned up as OPD patients, about one-third had no cardiac problems. About 10% to 20% of overall arrivals were in a state of panic,” added Dr K S Ravindranath, a senior cardiologist at the hospital.

According to Dr Manjunath, many patients who visited the hospital spoke about being immersed in news of the star’s death and consequently being unable to sleep at night and feeling chest pain.

Jayadeva’s experience was not isolated.

Cardiologists across the city noted that a knee-jerk reaction to the star’s death had seen their OPDs clogged with patients seeking reassurance about their own cardiac conditions.

At Manipal Hospital on HAL Airport Road, staff were taken aback to see over a dozen patients between the ages of 20 and 45 in a state of worry over perceived chest pain, according to Dr Ranjan Shetty, head of cardiology. At Sakra World Hospital on the other side of the city, Dr Sreekanth B Shetty, Head of Interventional Cardiology said the day’s patients included people aged 30 and above.

“The problem is that many people who have never worked out in their life, recently join a gym and start developing chest pain because of strenuous exercise. Workouts have to be done in a sustainable way that improves the cardiovascular system. The bottom line is that an athlete does not outlive a person who does a moderate amount of exercise. We need to make healthy choices,” Dr Shetty said.

Fitness industry norms

The issue is now prompting the government to consider guidelines for the fitness industry, according to Dr K Sudhakar, the Minister of Health.

“Since this is a completely unregulated area, the government is considering coming out with a set of guidelines for gyms and fitness centres so that there is thorough check-up of the individual before any kind of workout regime is suggested,” Dr Sudhakar said, adding that he has spoken to several cardiologists and requested them to come up with a report.

The minister also acknowledged that a sense of shock has descended upon the state in the wake of the actor’s death.

“Puneet Rajkumar was known to be a fitness freak. When such a healthy person suddenly leaves us at the age of 46 due to cardiac arrest, it is quite natural for people to get apprehensions about the safety and implications of rigorous workout regimes. We need to be careful about our age, the capacity of our body to withstand high-intensity workout,” he said.

Blowback against CT angiograms

Doctors lambasted a suggestion that all Indians over the age of 40 should undergo a CT angiography test, calling the suggestion “mindless”. “CT angiography will create false-positives resulting in needless cardiac treatment,” an expert said.

Dr C N Manjunath said that nobody should be subject to a CT angiography on a whim, because of radiation damage. “First-time OPD cardiac patients should be subjected to ECG, ECHO and blood tests. If symptoms are found, they should only then be subject to a treadmill test,” he said, adding that Ct angiography is a last resort.

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