Lyme Carditis - CTV National News
Fantastic news coverage and story on Lyme Carditis by Health Reporter Avis Favaro from CTV National News broadcasted Wednesday May 30, 2018.
Print Article (copied below):
'A heart specialist in Kingston, Ont. is warning health care professionals across the country to be on the lookout for a rare but serious complication of Lyme disease in which the disease bacteria begin to attack the heart.
The condition is called Lyme carditis and it can do serious damage by disturbing the heart’s electrical system andrate. Cardiologist Dr. Adrian Baranchuk, from the Kingston General Hospital Research Institute, says that’s why it’s so important for Canadian doctors to recognize the symptoms early and begin treatment – even before they have a definite diagnosis.
Most Canadians know Lyme disease is spread by ticks carrying the bacteria. The illness those bacteria cause is marked by fever, fatigue, and joint pain as well as other symptoms.
But when Lyme bacteria travel through the blood to the heart, they can also cause inflammation that disrupts the organ’s electrical system. The result is a condition called “heart block” in which the heartbeat becomes too slow.
The most common symptoms are sudden dizziness, shortness of breath, and chest pain. Left untreated, the condition can rapidly progress to complete heart shutdown.
Adam Flisikowski was diagnosed with Lyme carditis last summer after the previously healthy teen ended up in hospital with an erratic and dangerously slow heartbeat that dropped to 30-40 beats per minute.
The 19-year-old had just returned from a camping and fishing trip near Kingston and though he had taken precautions against bug and tick bites, when he got home, he found a small tick on his heel. He removed it, but six weeks later, he began having heart symptoms.
“I woke up and I could feel that something was wrong in my chest,” he told CTV News. “I felt like I was running but I was sitting down.”
Doctors told the teenager he might need to be fitted with a pacemaker to normalize his heartbeat. After several tests, doctors finally diagnosed him with Lyme carditis.
Dr. Baranchuk says Flisikowskiwas just one of several patients who were admitted to the Kingston Health Sciences Centre’s cardiac unit over 18 months with heart block symptoms. All were males under the age of 50 – one was just 14 – and all had recently taken part in outdoor activities.
“One of the things we noticed was each one of them had attended a different ER two to three times before anyone thought about this condition,” says Dr. Baranchuk.
Diagnosing Lyme carditis is often difficult because not only is the condition rare, many patients don’t get the bullseye rash caused by the bite of a Lyme-infected tick. Many also don’t notice the other, vague symptoms of Lyme disease, such as fever and muscle aches, which are often mistaken for the flu.
With Lyme diagnoses on the rise and the deer ticks that spread Lyme being found in parts of the country, Dr. Baranchuck worries Lyme carditis cases are going to increase but get missed.
“We have the suspicion that there are way more cases than are reported, because doctors are failing to report it,” he said.
That’s why Dr. Baranchuk has just published a paper advising Canadian health care workers to treat young patients with unusual heart problems with antibiotics to kill off any Lyme bacteria that might be present, while they wait for blood tests to confirm Lyme infection.
“These patients may not require pacemakers to be implanted. They can be treated with IV antibiotics for 10 to 12 days and the electricity of the heart will recover completely forever,” he said.
As for Flisikowski, because Dr. Baranchuk was able to offer him a quick diagnosis, he received antibiotics in time and his heart has now recovered.
“I am doing pretty good now. I am back to normal, I can do normal activities,” he said, fully aware his story is now a cautionary tale.
Sue Faber, a former ER nurse who had Lyme disease and now works with Lyme Hope, said that when patients present with symptoms such as fever, fatigue and joint pain, Lyme disease should be on top of mind among possible diagnoses, even when there is no rash present.
“We can treat them with antibiotics and they can go on with their lives,” she said.
The Ontario government says the best way to prevent Lyme disease is to prevent tick bites by: covering up
Dr Adrian Baranchuk: Cardiologist
Meet Dr Adrian Baranchuk, Cardiologist extraordinaire from Queens University. I've had several opportunities to talk with Dr Baranchuk and appreciate his dedication to his profession and sharing his expertise in a way which will undoubtedly help Canadians!
'One of the things we noticed was each one of them had attended a different ER two to three times before anyone thought about this condition,” says Dr. Baranchuk. Diagnosing Lyme carditis is often difficult because not only is the condition rare, many patients don’t get the bullseye rash caused by the bite of a Lyme-infected tick. Many also don’t notice the other, vague symptoms of Lyme disease, such as fever and muscle aches, which are often mistaken for the flu.'
We also appreciate that Dr Baranchuk took the time to share his research at the recent MP round table in Ottawa on Lyme disease! Fantastic collaboration!
Dr Baranchuk's full CTV interview here: https://www.ctvnews.ca/video?clipId=1406334
His publication in the CMAJ on Lyme Carditis: http://www.cmaj.ca/content/190/20/E622
Recent article on Dr Baranchuk's work at Queens: https://www.queensu.ca/gazette/stories/new-hope-lyme-disease-battle
Adam Flisikowski - Diagnosed with Lyme Carditis
Meet Adam Flisikowski - 19-year old shares his experiences with Lyme Carditis. He discusses taking preventative measures before he went on a camping and fishing trip - he was wearing long sleeves and socks over his pants. At first he thought it was soil, a speck on his foot - but it was stuck on, very small. It was a small tick. 6 weeks after the bite, his heart started racing, felt that something was wrong in his chest..
'The 19-year-old had just returned from a camping and fishing trip near Kingston and though he had taken precautions against bug and tick bites, when he got home, he found a small tick on his heel. He removed it, but six weeks later, he began having heart symptoms.
“I woke up and I could feel that something was wrong in my chest,” he told CTV News. “I felt like I was running but I was sitting down." Doctors told the teenager he might need to be fitted with a pacemaker to normalize his heartbeat. After several tests, doctors finally diagnosed him with Lyme carditis.'
He hopes his story can highlight the Importance of everyone being aware of this serious issue. No one knew right away that it was Lyme disease, Lyme carditis...
Adam's interview here: https://www.ctvnews.ca/video?clipId=1406436
Sue Faber: Registered Nurse
Meet Sue Faber, Registered Nurse, co-founder of LymeHope and discussing the importance for frontline healthcare professionals to be aware of Lyme disease as a differential diagnosis - not all patients have a rash, not all patients remember a tick bite! We need to educate on the diversity of acute and chronic lyme disease presentations and continue working in collaboration to spread the word and help more Canadians! Education on Lyme carditis must be a collaborative, multi-disciplinary approach which engages medical and scientific experts along with patients - who know first hand the disease they suffer with. Evidence-based medicine is anchored in this approach and we will continue to make strides forward as we work together to educate and engage with frontline healthcare professionals - with the patient experience and narrative as an important focus.
Thankful for Dr Adrian Baranchuk from Queens University pioneering this important work - for his dedication and research on Lyme Carditis - spreading the word and educating other healthcare professionals!
Sue's CTV interview here:https://www.ctvnews.ca/video?clipId=1406270
Recent Registered Nurses Association of Ontario resolution on Lyme disease: co-authored by Sue - speaking to the importance of Patient First Treatment of Canadians with Lyme disease: http://www.lymehope.ca/news-and-updates/registered-nurses-association-of-ontario-resolution-on-lyme-disease