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Plants Not Transplants

By February 3, 2017Huffington Post

The good news was announced this week that CEO of United Continental Holdings Inc. Oscar Munoz underwent a heart transplant Jan. 6 at Northwestern University in Chicago and was recovering. The heart transplant follows a sudden and obviously massive heart attack Oct. 15, 2015, just a few weeks after assuming the lead role at United. Although I do not know Mr. Munoz, I wish him well and am sure he is receiving excellent care.

When Mr. Munoz is fully healed I invite him be a force for change in raising the early detection of silent heart disease, and better yet, the prevention of heart disease, to national attention. Although I do not know the details of Mr. Munoz’s case, I suspect that a coronary artery calcium scan (CACS) done even a few days before his heart attack would have identified advanced heart artery disease. Although this CT scan, often called the mammogram of the heart, is widely available, takes less than a minute, and costs under $100 in my community, it is rarely ordered by primary care doctors for their patients around age 45-50. This is despite recommendations for using the CACS for those at risk by the American College of Cardiology, the Society for Heart Attack Prevention and Eradication, the National Lipid Association, and in my book “Dead Execs Don’t Get Bonuses.” The importance of the CACS was highlighted in a recent commentary in a popular cardiology website. In my practice, those with abnormal results on a CACS get intensive education and monitoring of all known factors leading to atherosclerosis. Some are found to have disease so advanced, although silent, to require a heart stent or bypass operation as Mr. Munoz may have needed before Oct. 15.

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