Understanding coronary artery disease and myocardial infarctions. Left-most image from wikipedia user ZooFari (other two images in public domain). This video is licensed under CC-BY-SA.
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This 3D animation depicts how Tim Russert’s fatal heart attack most likely occurred. It is based on the preliminary autopsy findings released today (6/15/08). Mr. Russert ruptured a “vulnerable” coronary plaque in his left anterior descending coronary artery (also known as the “LAD”) which supplies blood to the anterior wall of the left ventricle, the main pumping chamber. The rupture caused immediate formation of a large blood clot (thrombus) which totally obstructed the artery and cut off blood flow to the heart muscle; a “fresh” clot was found in the LAD artery at the autopsy. This precipitated a fatal cardiac arrhythmia, most likely ventricular fibrillation, which was unresponsive to resuscitative efforts. Most heart attacks (myocardial infarctions) are caused by rupture of “vulnerable” plaques that often do not interfere with blood flow or cause symptoms. This may explain why Mr. Russert had no symptoms (such as chest pain) and reportedly had a normal exercise test less than 2 months ago. For more information about this animation, please contact Dr. Edward Perper at firstname.lastname@example.org