Archive for the ‘Blogfinger Medical Reports’ Category

Dissecting aneurysm of the aorta. Internet image.

Dissecting aneurysm of the aorta. Internet image.

By Paul Goldfinger, MD, FACC    Editor Blogfinger.net.

Re-post from 2018.


The simple answer is yes, and it often has to do with fear of harming a patient either through what we do to treat a disease or through missing a diagnosis.

A basic tenet of medical practice is, “First do no harm.”   During my career I thought of that warning many times, because a physician is often tempted to do something that might be risky. Oftentimes that concern is more than balanced by the potential to help a patient—-even to save their lives.

I think that certain diagnoses also strike fear into the hearts of doctors.  In my years as a cardiologist, the condition which worried me the most was dissecting aneurysm of the aorta. This is a life threatening emergency which usually affects men, ages 60-70, but anyone could be a victim. The aorta is the large blood vessel that leaves the heart to carry oxygen-rich blood all over the body and especially to vital organs such as the brain and heart.

A tear develops in the aorta, for a variety of reasons, and the wall of this large artery begins to split apart lengthwise and may even rupture. The condition usually develops suddenly and evolves quickly,  resulting in high mortality rates.

Aside from the obvious risk of such a catastrophe, one of the fearful  elements of it for the physician is that the signs and symptoms can be varied and difficult to figure out, and the chance of survival improves when treatment is initiated as soon as possible.   For example it can mimic a heart attack or a stroke.   Very often it produces excruciating mid or upper back pain, and whenever I would get a call from the ER about someone with such pain, a knot in my stomach would quickly develop. Oftentimes the varied presentation of a dissecting aneurysm would fool the doctor and send him down the wrong path.  My greatest fear was to miss the diagnosis.

Occasionally this dangerous condition would present with no pain at all—-just other symptoms like nausea or sweating or shock. I recall one patient whose sole initial symptom was fainting accompanied by a very slow pulse, initially causing us to misunderstand the situation.

If a doctor experiences fear, it is often alleviated by the certainty of  experience, knowledge, a correct diagnosis, and a hopeful treatment plan.

Another source of fear is when the doctor is involved in a surgical procedure which goes wrong. But experienced  surgeons often don’t have fear during such situations because they are trained professionals who react reflexly to correct a problem. I worked with a surgeon at Dover  (NJ) General Hospital  and Medical Center who had been in a front line surgical unit in Viet Nam. There was nothing that would scare him.

The best defense against fear is competence  and character,  and that is why a solid education during medical school and during post-graduate training at quality institutions is so important and why patients need to look at their doctors’ credentials.

Gen. George Patton said, “All men are afraid in battle. The coward is the one who lets his fear overcome his sense of duty. Duty is the essence of manhood .”  

And so it is for physicians who must put aside their fear and go ahead and protect their patients.

As for dissecting aneurysm, new diagnostic imaging methods and new treatments now available, including non-surgical approaches, provide reassurance for the doctor and the patient during this dangerous problem.


CARTER BURWELL   “The Deer”  from the movie “3 Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.”


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The Master Two Step exercise stress test.

The Master Two Step exercise stress test.


Paul Goldfinger, MD, FACC. Re-post from Blogfinger.net  2015.


In 1929, a brilliant doctor at Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York City, took an interest in the diagnosis of coronary heart disease.   He was Arthur M. Master, MD, and he was trying to figure out how to diagnose underlying coronary artery disease in someone who seems healthy. This was at a time when there were no tools such as angiograms available.

He decided that he might be able to bring the diagnosis to the surface by having the subject perform exercise using a simple device—-a 2 step staircase which would enable the patient to exercise while being attached to an ECG machine.   The Master’s Two Step test was the first exercise stress test, but it later fell into disfavor and was not in use when I began my cardiology residency at “Sinai” in the late 1960’s.

In 1963, a cardiologist at the University of Washington, Dr. Robert Bruce, developed the Bruce protocol for exercise stress testing using a treadmill.   When I was in my final year of the cardiology residency at Mt. Sinai, we were required to do a clinical research project for 6 months.  My fellow resident was Elliot Stein, MD who later also came to New Jersey to practice.    We approached Dr. Arnold Katz, the chief at that time, regarding a project. He said, “Why don’t you do something with exercise.”

We were clueless about what to do.   We then spoke to Dr. Ephraim Donoso at the hospital who said, “We have a treadmill in the basement that no one has ever used..”  So we marched over to the hospital library where we discovered a paper by Dr. Bruce.  There were very few published studies to guide us, no one at the hospital knew much about it, and the Bruce procedure had not been standardized.

Because treadmill  testing was so new,  we had to figure it out for ourselves. It took a lot of time, study and experimentation.  We used Dr. Bruce’s basic protocol,  but all the fine points had to be worked out.  We tested volunteers.    The hardest part was figuring out how to get good quality ECG strips during the motion of exercise. Dr. Master used to get his ECG strips after exercise, but that wasn’t very accurate and probably was the weak spot that doomed the two step test.

Among many questions which had to be resolved was what to do with the patient when we got him off the machine.  We decided to sit him down at the end of the table. But two people nearly passed out, and we decided that the blood was pooling in their legs following exercise, so lying them down solved that problem.

6 months wasn’t enough time to do more than studying the science, designing a working protocol, and setting  up the lab, so we never actually performed a research trial, but we learned a lot about exercise physiology and stress testing.   Eventually we set up what would be the first treadmill exercise testing lab at the hospital where the exercise stress test was first invented by Dr. Master with his wooden two steps.

When I arrived at the Portsmouth Naval Hospital in Virginia,  I thought I would be really special and introduce our testing methods there.  But I was humbled when my chief Cmdr. Charlie Shaeffer had already set up their treadmill lab at that 1,400 bed teaching hospital. However,  two years later, arriving at Dover General Hospital and Medical Center in New Jersey, I was able to start a cardiology department and exercise testing lab there.

A modern setup for treadmill stress testing. Quinton Labs

A modern setup for treadmill stress testing. Quinton Labs

Over the years, the treadmill stress test has been refined and made more accurate with the development of  noise reduction cable technology, echocardiography and nuclear cardiology to offer more sophisticated end points beyond just the ECG.   In recent years the indications for the test were carefully studied.  We learned that it is not a screening test to be done on the entire population. When applied carefully it is a valuable diagnostic and prognostic tool. 



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newest ama


Good Morning Dr. Paul Goldfinger. Here are today’s top stories.

USA Today

USA Today


The New York Times (6/10) explores the challenges in detecting “the extent of prescription drug abuse among older adults, particularly those with plenty of money to spend.

The Times explains that experts attribute this to their “access to multiple doctors, many helping hands, and lots of financial wherewithal can help cloak the warning signs of addiction.” According to the Times, the problem is growing, as “more older adults are becoming addicted to powerful pain pills…to drown out the aches and pains of aging.”


Blogfinger Medical Commentary: Paul Goldfinger, MD, FACC

Seniors are more vulnerable to drug abuse because they use drugs, legal or illegal, to cope with pain, depression, anxiety and grief.  They often see many doctors and thus have access to prescriptions which can be filled at multiple pharmacies.  They also take an average of 4-9 pills per day, so what’s a few more, and caregivers may not notice.

Seniors are susceptible to medication interactions/side effects which can cause falls, dizziness, cognitive changes, poor balance, fainting, confusion, altered sleep patterns and loss of appetite.

Doctors may be at fault for not suspecting this diagnosis and also for being a bit careless as they try to help seniors with complaints such as pain.  Specialists are more and more focused on their own piece of the patient pie while forgetting to consider the whole thing .  So called “primary care” docs these days are salaried employees whose bosses run the offices like assembly lines.  No matter the economics or technology of health care, the basic truth is that each case is different, and doctors must interact with their patients in an individualized manner.

Primary care providers must do their jobs and assess their patients in a comprehensive way, paying attention to all case components  and to the big picture.

Families, caregivers and patient advocates must keep an eye on things, more than ever before in the history of modern medicine in the USA.





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Cup-a-joe at Nagle’s. 2017.  Paul Goldfinger © Note the OG ads under the glass.



Reuters  (11/23)  reported researchers found that “people who drink three to four cups of coffee a day are more likely to see health benefits than harm,” according to a paper published in the British Medical Journal.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (11/24) reported the researchers also found that people who drink three to four cups per day appear to be at lower risk for “diabetes, liver disease, dementia and some cancers,” including endometrial, liver, prostate, and skin.

The researchers “examined 201 observational studies analyzing the health of coffee drinkers.” Forbes (11/24) reported the researchers also found that coffee consumption was linked to lower risk for Parkinson’s disease, metabolic syndrome, kidney stones, and gout.

The Telegraph (UK) (11/22) reported the researchers found that drinking up to seven cups of coffee per day was linked to a lower risk of early death.



We have posted two articles in recent years about the health benefits of coffee drinking.  The AMA post above brings us up to  date.

My advice is, as before, do not fear coffee drinking except remember that caffeine can be addictive and can cause cardiac dysrhythmias, fast heart beat, tremors, nervousness, and insomnia.

Regarding insomnia, some people are especially sensitive, so some experts say that  they should not drink coffee after 2 PM.  And if you are a regular drinker of coffee, and then you don’t have any, consider that as a cause of an unexplained headache.  Also, coffee can increase alertness due to its effects on the brain; that is why people like me really need that morning Joe.

Some drink coffee to stay awake, such as during exams, driving, and doing careful tasks.  Whenever I had to show up at the coronary care unit in the middle of the night, the nurses greeted me with coffee. In fact my office supplied free coffee for that unit so that they all could stay awake.  But when I got home, I could fall asleep instantly despite the caffeine.  The same was true after a phone call from the hospital while I was asleep.



BERTIE HIGGINS    “Key Largo”   Do you think that Bogie  (“Here’s lookin’ at you kid..”) and Bacall were drinking coffee that winter in the Keys?



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Lollypops can do it. Amazon music photo.

Lollypops can do it. Amazon music photo.

By Paul Goldfinger, MD, FACC.   Editor@Blogfinger.net and Dean of the Blogfinger Off-Shore School of Medicine in Ocean Grove, NJ.   2018.

There is a song called “My Heart Goes Pitter Patter” recorded by Simone and Girlfunkle.


There is another (below) by Bia, a young singer from Brazil whose song is “My Heart Goes La La La.”



Rod Stewart has a tune called “Rhythm of My Heart”, while Etta Jones sings “There Goes my Heart” (below)

I know a cardiologist whose heart goes pitter patter every time he drinks coffee.   The symptom is due to extra heart beats (premature contractions) which give that sensation.

If a heart is stimulated, it might react with a fast beat or an erratic beat. The stimulation can be due to intense emotions including love.  Brain related causes result in adrenaline release and activation of the sympathetic nervous system—ie the “flight or fight” reaction; or the stimulation might be due to certain substances such as caffeine, prescription drugs, cocaine, or alcohol.   The effects on the heart may be perceived by the patient or may be “silent.”

A violinist came to see me because, before she would go on stage, she would experience tremors in her hands, sweaty palms,  and palpitations due to “stage-fright.” a typical emotions-based cause of such symptoms.   Other brain related causes of adrenalin release symptoms include fear, anger, severe stress, sudden surprise, threats, and battle.  As for love,–if would have to be pretty intense.

The violinist was successfully treated by blocking the effects of adrenaline using a drug called a “beta blocker” which the musician could take as needed, prior to a concert. The drug would not adversely affect the performance as might a tranquilizer, but would enhance it by removing the fear factor.

The cardiac responses to stimulation do not necessarily indicate heart disease.    It can happen to healthy individuals. But if you have palpitations, a visit to a cardiologist would be wise. He can order a take-home monitor which can record your electrocardiogram (ECG) when your heart goes pitter patter and it will also make a recording if you have a rhythm disturbance (arrhythmia) without symptoms. In either case, the doctor will be able to see what kind of arrhythmia is causing the symptoms, and then a decision can be made regarding what to do about it.

But no doctor will advise giving up love.


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Getting back to basics…Medicine 101


By Paul Goldfinger, MD, FACC.  Dean of the Blogfinger Off-Shore School of Medicine in Ocean Grove, NJ.


She was a tall thin blond, 22 years old, from Germany.  She had long graceful legs and she was a good looker.  But she was more than just that; she was an international elite high jumper and she was exhausted.  Beside muscle weakness, she had leg cramps and she had passed out a few times.

I admitted her to the internal medicine teaching service at Mt. Sinai Hospital, located on the upper east side of Manhattan, facing Central Park. The year was 1967 and I, a first year medical resident, was struggling to come up with a diagnosis.

She seemed perfectly healthy. Her history was unrevealing, and her physical examination was unremarkable. Doctors like to say “unremarkable” for normal,  but she was anything but unremarkable. She denied taking any drugs, being on a crazy diet  or vomiting to lose weight.  We ran tests on her, and there was only one salient abnormality:  her blood potassium level was very low.  In other words, she was hypokalemic.

The second year resident,  the chief resident, and the attending physician could not figure out the cause of her electrolyte disorder.  “Electrolyte” refers to the minerals in the blood such as sodium, potassium, chloride and calcium.  We ruled out kidney disease and metabolic problems.

Dr. Solomon Berson, the Chief of the Department of Medicine, said that he would order an experimental serum insulin level from his lab—a test that would eventually win the Nobel Prize in Medicine.  But that didn’t help either.

Finally I decided to go back to basics and take another history.  It’s like those cop shows when they keep interrogating the suspect until something squeaks out to solve the case. In the 1960’s, a great deal of emphasis was placed on talking to patients, because our testing methods were so primitive compared to today’s.

It seemed that we would have to lower the talking bar for this high jumper. We discussed her life and her habits.  Finally the truth popped out:  she was a secret user of thiazide diuretics.  It wasn’t clear why she was doing that. She didn’t know that diuretics cause your body to be depleted of potassium.  We took away the diuretics, and she was cured.

Next stop was the psychiatry department.  Meanwhile I got a case report out of it in the Mt. Sinai Journal of Medicine plus a bit of notoriety at “Sinai” which lasted about two days.  It was the first time a published medical report contained a serum insulin level.

History taking is becoming a lost art. Electronic medical records encourage doctors to use checklists, and often the history is obtained by a medical assistant or “physician extender.”

There is an old saying in the profession: “Listen to the patient; he is telling you the diagnosis.”  The great Sir William Osler, one of the founders of the Johns Hopkins Hospital, is credited with those words of wisdom.




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By Paul Rogers, NY Times, May, 2016.

By Paul Rogers, NY Times, May, 2016.



By  Paul Goldfinger, MD .  Blogfinger Off-Shore School of Medicine in Ocean Grove, NJ.  (Our motto: “Healthcare are us”)


In May, the NY Times published an article called “Computer Vision Syndrome Affects Millions.”  (Link below)


This fascinating condition causes eye symptoms in people who spend a great deal of time in front of computers—more than  3 hours per day.    The population at risk is “huge” worldwide.   The symptoms include burning in the eyes, double vision, blurry vision, itching, dryness and redness, “all of which can interfere with work performance. ”  Then you have the millions of kids playing computer games.

When you sit in front of a computer, your blinks/minute decrease, promoting dry eyes.

Other symptoms include back and neck pain and tension headaches.

The situation is complicated and involves paying attention to your distance to the screen, the height of the screen, taking breaks from the computer, humidity levels in the room, lighting of the screen, positioning the monitor, and getting special computer glasses for that mid-range distance.

A study from Iran of  642 pre-university students revealed that 71% sat too close to the monitor for comfort, and two thirds were improperly positioned in relation to the monitor above or below.

I use computer glasses that take into account the distance to the monitor and also the need for bifocals to provide for looking down at papers to read when working at a computer. Eye doctors can prescribe computer glasses.


BOBBY SHORT:   “Looking at You.”  from his album Bobby Short on the East Side.


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Mt. Sinai Hospital 1985. Upper East Side.

Mt. Sinai Hospital early 1900’s. Upper East Side.

By Paul Goldfinger, MD, FACC  (original post 2015.)

Charles K. Friedberg was Clinical Professor of Medicine at the Mt. Sinai Hospital and School of Medicine in New York City during the 1960’s until his death in a car accident in 1972. He was also the most famous cardiologist in the world, being the sole author of Diseases of the Heart, the “bible” of cardiology—–a textbook of over 1,000 pages that was translated into 6 languages.

Charles K. Friedberg, MD

Charles K. Friedberg, MD  Paul Goldfinger photo  ©

He was the Chief of the Cardiology Department at “Sinai” when I took my cardiology residency there. Dr. Friedberg was famous not only as an author, scholar, editor, researcher and teacher, but also as a brilliant clinician, so it was a great privilege to make rounds with him at the hospital.

In 1985, Nanette Wenger, MD, from  Emory University School of Medicine, who trained under Dr. Friedberg, wrote a tribute to him and said, “Author of the classic textbook of cardiology, Diseases of the Heart, his knowledge was encyclopedic; and his eloquence in describing and his skills in analyzing, organizing, and categorizing clinical cardiac problems remain unparalleled.”

“CKF” was the man to see if a patient had a problem that no one could solve.   Many of his patients were captains of industry and celebrities, but they all deferred to him as they lay in their hospital beds, literally looking up to him. I recall rounding on Gus Levy, the president of the New York Stock Exchange, and seeing this extraordinarily important man chatting amiably with Dr. F. and basically adopting a “Yes, sir” attitude.     I recall rounding with him on Pearl Bailey, Frank Sinatra’s father, and many New York titans. 

But he wasn’t mainly a doctor to the stars. He rounded on the “teaching service” regularly to help the residents with their toughest cases. He always stressed talking to the patient and taking a careful history, a talent that is in danger of evaporating these days. He would walk into the room, pull up a chair and sit next to the head of the bed to have an intimate conversation with the patient, while the house staff, med students and nurses crowded around at the foot.

One time he asked me to accompany him; he was giving a lecture at St. Vincent’s Hospital in lower Manhattan. A “car” picked us up, and when we arrived, I walked into the auditorium of this Catholic hospital with him. There were nuns around and crosses on the walls.   I was wearing my “whites” and on the jacket sleeve was the red Mt. Sinai emblem, complete with Hebrew writing. It was a bit ironic, and I felt like I was accompanying a great rabbi on a Papal visit.

At Mt. Sinai, a hospital created in 1852 to provide healthcare for immigrant Jews, the medical staff was mostly Jewish, although there were many exceptions. Jim Dove was a very Waspish kind of guy, but he went out of his way to become a resident there, and the other residents would always kid him about it. Jim eventually became president of the American College of Cardiology.

I loved the jokes and the cultural references that were quite a change for me, coming from a med school where there were more Mormons than Jews. Both our sons were born at Sinai, and Eileen had a room in the “private” Guggenheim Pavilion where they gave her lobster. She didn’t want to leave.

Charles Friedberg, MD was from an era when creative doctors at medical centers could do research and teaching, while still maintaining a private practice. It was hard to imagine how he found the time to write his book all by himself, and we used to speculate who might have secretly helped him, but we never could prove the point.

One time he invited all the attendings and residents (and spouses)  from the Cardiology Dept. to his elegant Fifth Avenue apartment which was spacious and grand. It had many rooms and even its own elevator. He and his wife were gracious hosts, and his library had a row of his books in multiple editions and in multiple languages.

It was the art of medicine that distinguished Dr. Friedberg’s  approach to patient care—something that you can’t get from a text book or a medical journal, and despite today’s emphasis on practice guidelines, physician assistants, controlled trials, and electronic medical records, doctors will not be as effective if they lose that special doctor-patient connection that has been handed down from Hippocrates to teachers like Dr. Friedberg. Let’s hope that the upstarts who are taking over healthcare get to appreciate that point.

ADDENDUM:   Woody in Hannah and her Sisters gets cured of a brain tumor at Mt. Sinai Hospital.

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Good Morning Dr. Paul Goldfinger. Here are today’s top stories. Friday, September 23, 2016.


The CBS News (9/22) website reports that “falls are the number one cause of fatal and nonfatal injuries among adults over 65,” researchers concluded in a report published in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

The report found that “in 2014, older Americans fell 29 million times, leading to seven million injuries” that sometimes landed people in the emergency department. Unfortunately, “more than 27,000 falls led to death.”

In a press statement, CDC Director Tom Frieden, MD, MPH, said, “Older adult falls are increasing and, sadly, often herald the end of independence.” Dr. Frieden went on to emphasize that falls can be prevented.

Below is the  link to the excellent CBS News article on this subject.


Blogfinger medical commentary by Paul Goldfinger, MD, FACC:

These stats are impressive, and the article describes certain elements that we might not ordinarily think of.  Once someone falls, there are a variety of variables that need to be evaluated in order to prevent more falls.   For example, is the patient keeping his falls secret for fear of losing independence? Family members must think of this if, for example, bruises are seen or balance problems noticed.

Falls can be minor or terrifyingly dangerous.  Falling down even a few steps can result in horrible injuries. And that damage can be made worse by coexisting factors such as chronic therapy with blood thinners, causing traumatic bleeding to be worse than expected.

Don’t forget the need to have an “I fell down and can’t get up” button around the patients neck. I had a patient who fell and got wedged between the toilet and the bathtub, and she could not reach a phone; luckily a friend came by to pick her up for her regular card game.   And how about a cell phone to be worn in a holster all the time? There are exercises to improve balance, and make sure to check the lighting in the house.

Head injuries can be deceptive, and, if one occurs, an ER visit and then subsequent observation are essential.

Some of the prevention  factors include safe footwear, regular eye exams,  and getting rid of throw rugs.

If a senior gets in a car accident, don’t allow him/her to just go home and rest.  Always take them to the hospital to be checked. And if they do go home make sure that someone provides oversight to look for emerging signs of trouble.

As we have pointed out in our BF articles, seniors are often on multiple medications, and those may be overdosed, mixed up,causing side effects, or interacting with each other. The end result might be a fall, due to dizziness or a drop in blood pressure. There are other medical issues, such as cardiac rhythm disturbances, that could cause falling, so if someone falls, have them checked even if there is no obvious injury and be sure to have his medication list reviewed—-bring all the meds with you.

We have also reported on drug dependency in seniors, and that might be a factor.

For some seniors, they tend to rush around, and that can cause quick turns and loss of balance.   My mother was like that, so I stuck a big sign on her fridge:  “Slow Down.”  Of course, she gave it back to me by saying, “You talk too fast and not loud enough.”    She used to say, “Stop mumbling.”  At least she didn’t put any signs on our fridge.

The psycho-social issues resulting from falling are very important as well.  Patients sometimes lie about what happened in order to avoid unpleasant consequences such as  neurologic findings which could result in loss of a driving license and thus loss of freedom.  A neurologist might pick up a problem with peripheral vision which could result in a car accident.

Families of elderly patients must be vigilant.

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The generator is under the skin. A wire is passed into a vein and into the right side of the heart (the tip is positioned in the right ventricle). This technique has stood the test of time.

Permanent pacemaker configuration.   The generator is under the skin. A wire is passed into a vein beneath the clavicle and into the right side of the heart (the tip is positioned in the right ventricle). In this example there is a second wire in the right atrium.


I saved this 1970's unit made by Cordis. The surgeon would place it into a

I saved this used 1970’s single lead unit made by Cordis in Miami.  The surgeon would place it into a “pocket” under the skin and attach it to an electrode in the heart.   Paul Goldfinger photo. ©


The opposite side of the unit shown.

The opposite side of the unit shown.  Cardiologists would go into the OR with the surgeon when a pacemaker was placed. Now, surgeons are usually no longer needed for this procedure. ©  Paul Goldfinger photo


A tiny modern version of a permanent pacemaker.

A tiny modern version of a permanent pacemaker.


Current model.

Current model.

By Paul Goldfinger, MD, FACC,  Dean at the Blogfinger  Off-shore School of Medicine .   Re-posted from Feb. 2016 on Blogfinger.net

My career spanned the remarkable history of permanent cardiac pacemakers. In the early 1970’s, those devices were as a big as a can of tuna fish. They had limited functions and a variety of technical problems. Today they are miniature electronic marvels.

The story began around 1930 when an Australian researcher found that the heart could be stimulated with a localized electrical shock delivered from a wire.

1949: The Medtronic Company, pioneers in pacemakers, was begun in a garage in Buffalo by an engineer and a physician.

1952: At the Boston Beth Israel Hospital, a patient was admitted with fainting spells due to drastic slowing of the heart. These are called Stokes-Adams attacks. This was the first case to be treated with a temporary pacemaker. A wire was attached to the external wall of his heart, while the pacemaker generator was outside his body.

1957: The first battery powered unit was developed, and, in 1958, the first permanent pacemaker was implanted in a dog, consisting of a generator under the skin and a wire attached to the outside wall of the heart.

1960: The first permanent pacemaker was implanted in a human. In 1961, the first in New Jersey was performed by heart surgeon Victor Parsonnet at Newark Beth Israel. Dr. Parsonnet is one of a core group of doctors world-wide to get credit for pioneering work in permanent pacemakers.

1973- 1980: The era when my own career began, the technology of permanent pacemakers evolved strikingly, with smaller and more complicated  “generators,” longer lasting batteries, and better electrode (wire) systems.  Medical electronics had been evolving thanks to the invention of the microprocessor.

When a patient only needed a temporary pacemaker, a cardiologist such as myself would pass a wire into the right ventricle through a vein in the arm or neck and attach it to an external pacemaker which hung from an IV pole at the bedside.  Eileen sometimes kids me by saying, “If you can put a wire into somebody’s heart, how come you can’t…….(fill in the blank)”

The permanent units could just only control slow heart rates at first, but later, more functions were developed and could be programmed (changing the settings) from without.

At first, pacemakers had to be routinely changed every two years because of battery life, but later the batteries were improved.

In the early 1970’s research with a nuclear powered pacemaker was performed by Dr. Parsonnet and his team at Newark’s Beth Israel Hospital . They were trying to increase the battery life.   That technology did not work out.

During this phase, techniques for monitoring the battery life and functions of a permanent pacemaker were developed. Eventually a patient could be followed by the use of a telephone, so hospitals throughout NJ had a setup where they could check their patients by phoning into NBIH for monitoring allowing doctors to predict when a pacemaker had to be changed and how well it was working. In-person visits to a pacemaker clinic were also required to check a variety of other functions .

In late 1970’s, at Dover (NJ) General Hospital and Medical Center, Jean Wiarda, RN ( a cardiac nurse) and myself,  with the cooperation of Medtronic, set up the first free-standing pacemaker clinic in north Jersey. After that, many other hospitals followed suit and broke away from the NBIH connection.  Later patients were able to phone in  their pacemaker signals from home  to the clinics. They also had to come for in-person evaluations intermittently depending on what we wanted to measure or program.

A major development, evolving in the 1970’s, was the transvenous lead for permanent pacemakers which eliminated the need to open the chest and sew an electrode into the heart muscle.   Instead, an electrode could be passed through a vein under the collar bone and into the right ventricular chamber, eliminating the need for heart surgery.

Now that continues to be standard, although the pacemaker generators are much smaller, and the electrodes have been refined, and sometimes more than one wire is used. Even though the generators are now tiny (you can’t even tell that someone has a unit,) they can perform all sorts of miraculous functions and are totally adjustable from without using a device called a programmer.

Surgeons used to install permanent transvenous pacemakers, but now these complex devices are placed by electrophysiologists, cardiologists who specialize in electrical diagnostics and therapeutics including implantable cardio-defibrillators.

The future of electrophysiology is huge, and progress is made every day in this field.

The latest development, currently  being perfected is that of wireless pacemakers, meaning no wires into the heart.  This will revolutionize the field since about 250,000 permanent pacemakers are placed yearly in the US, and about 750,000 around the world.

Around here, Jersey Shore Medical Center and Morristown Medical Center have first rate electrophysiology departments.

Editor’s note  10/30/20:  Thanks to Dr. Eran Zacks, FACC, FHRS   (Fellow  Heart Rhythm Society) of Monmouth Cardiology for updating us on new rhythm monitoring techniques and wireless pacemakers.



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OG boards. May 31, 2020. This is a Sunday morning,  and board walking is OK.  If you walk on the beach on Sunday morning, no one will stop you.   Paul Goldfinger photograph. ©



Blogfinger Medical Report.   Paul Goldfinger, MD, FACC.

This  headline* is from Reuters Health covering the opinions of some Canadian professors in an article in the Annals of Internal Medicine.  They said, ” While there is no direct evidence yet that cloth masks can reduce  SARS-CoV-2 transmission, the collective evidence indicating that mask wearing by infected people reduces contamination is convincing and should inform policy.”

They say that “there is ample evidence that the masks can prevent infected droplets from getting into the air or onto surfaces.”

The article  said, “There was also evidence, though not as strong, that cloth masks might protect wearers as well.”

A professor in the trial,  Dr. Catherine Clase, from the McMaster University in Ontario, said, “While the evidence shows that masks can help, they are no substitute for social distancing and handwashing but should be used along with those measures.”

Dr. Supratik Guha, Professor at the Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering  from the University of Chicago said, “I have been stressing that simple reasoning and evidence indicates that the use of a decent cloth mask in indoor or use public places will reduce infection transmission.  If most of the population practices this, the multiplicative benefits can be enormous in reduction overall infection rates within a community.”

CDC says:    “A cloth face covering should be worn whenever people are in a community setting, especially in situations where you may be near people. These settings include grocery stores and pharmacies. These face coverings are not a substitute for social distancing. Cloth face coverings are especially important to wear in public in areas of widespread COVID-19 illness.


Blogfinger commentary: By Paul Goldfinger, MD.   I have observed a significant lack of compliance outdoors in Ocean Grove;  probably because people are not sure that the invisible terror will be eliminated by mask practices, and there is some confusion regarding when and how to make use of masks.

Official guidelines by the Camp Meeting Association of Ocean Grove are evasive and unconvincing.  They say on their web site:  “Wearing masks is strongly encouraged.”

So, to practice masking, one needs some faith in the scientific guidelines, such as they are.  I have always tried to practice evidence-based medicine, but the science here isn’t so clear,  and maybe we need to believe somewhat in good judgement and even in magic.

I am not convinced that we should wear masks if we are outdoors in open spaces where we can stay away from others or when alone in our cars.     But keep in mind that this virus spreads by human to human contact, so you can use some common sense in this regard and judge your situation by that principle and analyze your own environment.

We know that the virus can, under certain circumstances, infect the air we breathe originating in coughing, sneezing and even talking.

So don’t take unnecessary chances.  If there is any possibility that human to human contact might occur in any situation, then put on a mask.

The two ladies walking side by side wore masks, but they could have been somewhat more apart.  If I were walking alone there, I  would be tempted to  wear no  mask, as many were not doing, but I would surely weave my way around any humans walking or biking towards me.

If you don’t wear a mask outside, at least carry one, just in case.

Best choice:  wear the mask on the boards.  The beach will be a more difficult decision.

And don’t forget to wash your masks.


ALY AND AJ. “Into the Rush:”



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Food Store in a strip mall in Ft. Myers, Fla. Blogfinger photo. ©


By Paul Goldfinger, MD.  Signs of the Times Editor.  Blogfinger.net

In the past, convenience stores offered a minimum amount of ready-to-eat  food.   Most of their edibles were  pre-packaged like bagels or buttered rolls. But lately, such stores have been selling hot foods like pizza, cooked eggs, and certain sandwiches.  And now they are promoting  “hand crafted fresh subs,” as seen above in Florida .

A Grover I know loves to go the the 7-11 outside the Grove “gates.” He says that they create good sandwiches for a few dollars.  He also enjoys going to the Pathway Market where they have an actual cook on-site making a variety of hot and cold selections.  He says that their “fresh”  foods are quite good.

“Fresh” food is dictionary-defined as  “food that is not preserved by canning or dehydration or freezing or smoking.”    So spoiled food can be considered “fresh?”  They also promote  “fresh breakfast” to go.  What is a “fresh breakfast?”

Maybe they need to say “subs and breakfast made to order.”  That way they avoid the confusing “fresh” word.  And let the buyer beware.

And since when does one “hand craft” a sandwich?   Were they machine made before?

Once again we see abuse of language by businesses trying to turn something ordinary into something extraordinary by the word usage on their signs.  So, what do they mean by “fresh?”

Stores like this used to be called   “convenience stores,”  but now they are “food stores.”  But of the “fresh” foods, how are they defining “fresh?”

If  they made the potato salad that morning can you call it fresh 8 hours later?  24 hours later?    Can they call it “fresh made” if it’s still in the cooler the next day?  Are they labeling such items with dates?

These stores are just convenience stores with a microwave and a willingness to make sandwiches to order.  Can we trust them for freshness?  Who is protecting the public?

Wegmans brings in”fresh” fish daily..  They will keep it overnight one night and then dispose of it the next day if it doesn’t sell by the end of that day.  If the fish was caught the day before it arrives on ice, then it is one day old when Wegmans gets it.  Maybe they should label their fish as “one day old” or  “two days old.”  Their sushi is never kept over-night.  And they never say “fresh sushi.”  A store like Wegmans is meticulous regarding freshness, but the public needs to be informed about freshness at all food stores.

Typically, when it comes to sea food, unfrozen fish is called “fresh.”  And frozen fish when it is defrosted is called “what?”    “Defrosted?”  Public needs to know.  If there are no signs to clarify, ask some questions.  Be careful where you buy “fresh” foods.

I heard that Japanese tuna fisherman slice off a piece of sushi grade meat as soon as the fish flops on the deck.  I would say that that is definitely “fresh.”

But, for those who have limited funds, disabilities, and no cars, these sorts of food stores provide some appreciated sustenance, so the Township needs to protect such citizens.

However,  since we do not have a clear definition of “fresh” whoever uses that word needs to find something more precise to say.  Hopefully the Township is keeping an eye on convenience stores who are self-proclaimed purveyors of “fresh” food.



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Internet graphic.


Interestingly, the latest recommendations for in-office readings suggest electronic devices for more accuracy rather than this type or mercury machines.


From the Blogfinger Off-Shore School of Medicine.  Paul Goldfinger MD, FACC Dean.  Ocean Grove, NJ.


Blogfinger has  reported on diagnostic and treatment guidelines for systemic hypertension. (“High blood pressure”).

In 2017, the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology came out with new parameters.   They reported that the diagnostic cutoff had been reduced from the long-time standard of 140/90 down to 130/80.  That means that the diagnosis of hypertension would be made if one’s blood pressure stabilized at over 130/80.

There remains controversy over these guidelines, plus there are many variations on the theme, such as when to start drug therapy, factoring in age,  and how to judge success.

The stakes are high,  because so many have this diagnosis, and hypertension poses an increased risk of a variety of complications including coronary heart disease, congestive heart failure, stroke, peripheral vascular disease, kidney failure, and mortality.

Most of the time if the top number (systolic) is high, then the bottom number (diastolic) is often elevated as well.   Doctors have usually focused their attention on the systolic readings, but now, because the normal diastolic cutoff is above 80 instead of 90, physicians are more likely to be concerned about the diastolic as well because more people will carry the diagnosis of diastolic hypertension.

A small percent of patients have “isolated diastolic hypertension”  (high diastolic—over 80 mmHg; normal systolic–less than 130 mm Hg,)  but there is some controversy as to the risk of those diastolic elevations.  Using the new criteria, it is estimated that 6.5% of the population have this issue.

In general, it has been felt that isolated diastolic hypertension is harmless. But there are few long term clinical trials looking at this.

William McEvoy is professor of preventive cardiology at the National University of Ireland and he said in an interview with Medscape, “Our data suggest that there is no harm of having a diastolic pressure above 80 mm Hg if the systolic is below 130 mmHg and that the new 80 mmHg diastolic threshold means that 12 million adults in the US will be labeled as hypertensive but will not benefit from the diagnosis and may be given unnecessary treatment.”

In another quote he said, “If an individual has normal systolic blood pressure (less than 130 according to new guidelines,)  our data suggest that it doesn’t really matter what the diastolic blood pressure is.”

But Paul Whelton, MD, chair of the 2017 AA/AHA guideline committee said he agreed that systolic pressure is the more important measure for predicting cardiovascular risk and for making drug treatment decisions. But he felt that a diastolic of over 90 should be treated, especially in high risk patients such as those with prior cardiovascular disease.

I saw my own eminent cardiologist recently. I brought my record of home readings for his review, and he noticed that my systolic was fine at 110-120 but he raised his eyebrows above the top edge of his computer screen when he saw that my diastolic readings were 80-85.  He was reacting to the new guidelines for diastolic pressure, but he could not bring himself to raise my anti-hypertensive drug dosing.

His decision was totally correct, independent of my opinion,  since trying to lower that number could produce some unpleasant side effects, and, as noted above, the evidence for his changing my treatment for this is simply not compelling enough.  And the best doctors react to more than just numbers.

Here is a link to our 2019 review of new guidelines and related topics:

BF guideline review for hypertension. March, 2019.

If you check our search box. (above right) you can find our recent 4-part series “Confessions of a High Blood Pressure Doctor”


BOB DYLAN: A musical tribute for those doctors and researchers who maintain normal blood pressures to the brain and prevent strokes:


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