EASTON — Anton Black’s autopsy report, released Wednesday, Jan. 23, listed the cause as sudden cardiac death, due to “anomalous right coronary artery and myocardial tunneling of the left anterior descending coronary artery.”
The condition cited is referred to as congenital heart disease, or congenital heart defect, which is one or more abnormalities in a heart’s structure with which an individual is born. The most common of birth defects can alter the way blood flows through one’s heart.
Defects range from simple, which might cause no problems, to complex, which can cause life-threatening complications, according to the Mayo Clinic.
University of Maryland Community Medical Group cardiologist Dr. John Condit outlined the condition with which Black was diagnosed.
“What happens with the anomalous right coronary artery is that it runs in between, instead of around the main artery, taking blood to the lungs and the main artery taking blood out to the body. Those two main arteries can squish the right coronary artery when it runs in between them. And that can limit the blood flow, and (a person may) have chest pains,” Condit said.
Condit said the tunneling is where, instead of the artery running on the surface of the heart, it actually runs through the muscle. When the heart squeezes, that artery gets constricted because the heart muscle is squeezing down on it.
“Most of those conditions, if they were significant enough, can cause chest pains, and if the constriction is frequent enough and severe enough to limit blood flow to the downstream muscle, such that that downstream muscle doesn’t get the oxygen in the blood that it needs to do its job, you can get arrhythmias, and that is what people actually die from is the arrhythmias,” Condit said.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Protection, one study estimated that, in 2010, more than 2 million infants, children, adolescents and adults were living with congenital heart defects in the United States. Researchers estimated about a million U.S. children and about 1.4 million U.S. adults were living with congenital heart defects. The diagnosis usually is found with people who develop chest discomfort, tightness and pressure, as well as shortness of breath or swelling. If patients present to their doctor those type of complaints, the doctor will do a work up, and they eventually will get an angiogram and then these conditions could be surgically corrected.
The condition is considered rare and can be difficult to diagnose. However, sometimes, the abnormality can be found on an electrocardiogram, which measures the heart’s electrical activity; and a magnetic resonance imaging of the heart, where doctors can find the abnormality.
“It’s always diagnosed later in life when the symptoms present. But the first symptom can be sudden death, because you could be a childhood athlete running in a track meet, and that just drives your heart rate and blood pressure up, causes a problem, and the first problem leads to death rather than just chest tightness,” Condit said. ANTON BLACK
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