Peripheral medical vision can save lives

by DR. FRANK MADDUX | Special to the Observer

Highlights
Peripheral medical vision can prevent “silent,” killing diseases.
Health professionals too often look at organs and diseases as independent.
Medical professionals must improve their ability to view patients’ complete health.

Five years ago, my life required saving and I didn’t even know it.

At that time, I was a doctor of 27 years, only 52 years old, a respected voice in my field, healthy by most accounts, lying on an exam table like many before me watching my heart on a monitor. Unlike millions of Americans who get this evaluation every year, I knew with one glance that the obstructed blood vessel on the monitor would require a serious procedure. Soon after, I would undergo heart surgery.

As a practicing kidney doctor and head of medicine for the country’s largest kidney care provider, I have seen thousands of patients. I have explained the risks of “silent” kidney disease that could lead to a life of dialysis to many. But how often had I missed silent cardiac disease like my own?

It made me think of my own peripheral medical vision – the ability to look beyond what was right in front of me – and the ability of the rest of the health care system to do the same.

North Carolina, where I trained and practiced for years, is tied with several states for the second highest percentage of patients on dialysis, with 1,497 per million, according to the National Kidney Foundation. At the same time, the American Heart Association says heart disease is the second highest cause of death in the state.

The body is much greater than the sum of its parts. Yet health professionals often look at things in terms of independent organs or disease processes.

Read the full story online at The Charlotte Observer