What Is The Widowmaker Artery And The Widowmaker Heart Attack?
The Widowmaker artery is typically the main artery that runs down the front of the heart and supplies most of the heart with blood. The Widowmaker heart attack happens when there is a critical blockage in the Widowmaker artery that leads to a large reduction or a total reduction in blood flow to the large area of the heart supplied and of course the consequences of such a large heart attack. The anatomy of the Widowmaker is described below.
Why Is It Called The Widowmaker?
No one knows who exactly coined the term. The fact is though heart blockages in the regions described below, known are known as the Widowmaker because they are known to be life threatening. This is because these blockages are right at the beginning of the main blood supply to the heart. If the artery goes down here, so does everything after that! Before we discuss the mother of all Widowmakers, lets take a minute to review a previous post on the Widowmaker (WIDOWMAKER PART 1), where I described the most common form of the Widowmaker artery heart attack, a blockage right at the beginning of the left anterior descending artery, also known as the LAD. This is demonstrated nicely in the pictures below. Also demonstrated is how this was fixed with a stent procedure.
The Widowmaker To Beat All Widowmakers!
Now lets talk about the Widowmaker artery that trumps all Widowmakers, this is a critical blockage in the left main artery as demonstrated in detail in the diagram below. It’s called the left main artery, because as can be seen in the picture of the normal blood supply it supplies the entire blood supply to the main pumping chamber of the heart. This form of the Widowmaker is rare and as life threatening as you get. In the case of a Widowmaker heart attack that involves the left main artery, the patient will often not survive, simply because there is basically no blood able to flow to the main pumping chamber of the heart.
Can You Fix The Left Main Widowmaker?
A high-grade obstruction in the left main artery, particularly where it divides in to the two other arteries, is typically treated by urgent or often emergent open-heart surgery. Currently, for complex left main artery blockages, open heart surgery is felt to be the preferred treatment option. This is to avoid the Widowmaker heart attack! If someone survives a Left Main Widowmaker and makes it to hospital then they are very, very, lucky. Unfortunately most will not. It’s more common to present to hospital with the LAD (left anterior descending) form of Widowmaker and in this case the reason for survival is that there is still blood supply to the left side of the heart from the circumflex artery. Unlike the left main Widowmaker, in which case no blood can flow beyond that! Sometimes, I have to perform a complex procedure and use a stent to fix even a Left Main Widowmaker, for example if the patient is felt too high risk for surgery. The picture BELOW shows one such case, before and after the use of a stent, with an excellent result, to treat a left main Widowmaker blockage.