Question: I was told I have a myocardial bridge. What does that mean and is it important?
Answer: A myocardial bridge is a situation where a blood vessel that delivers blood to the heart actually goes through muscle.
Now, you have to envision what the heart usually looks like. It's a muscle that's squeezing, and the big vessels -- the sort of hoses that are providing the blood to the heart -- are going across the top of the heart, and then it's feeding the smaller vessels, which then can innerdigitate down through the heart and provide blood to the muscles, which are quite active and need a good supply of oxygen and nutrients.
Every once in a while -- and this just occurs at birth -- one of the vessels in the developmental phase sort of takes a left turn when it should take a right turn, and it ends up going through the muscle.
Well, why is this important, why does this cause a problem? Well, the reason is because when the heart squeezes, it can compress that vessel, so then at the time the heart's squeezing, no blood can go through the heart.
Now, the good news is, usually a lot of the blood flow that's going through the heart is going when the blood's relaxing -- that's just the nature of the way the blood goes. Because when it's squeezing, it's tightening down anyway, but this can cause a problem for some people, even some symptoms.
Often it's just something we see when we do a cardiac catheterization, and it's observed but it's not causing any problems.
So this is something which you need to talk more to your doctor about, but the basic description of a myocardial bridge is usually in reference to an artery that -- as I said -- went one way when it should have gone the other in the development of your body as you were being born, as you were being developed in utero, and then as you grew up, what happened was that vessel went through a muscle and gets compressed when the heart squeezes.
In many cases -- in most cases -- it doesn't cause a problem. It's not life threatening. It's not something you should worry about. But in every once in awhile, it can cause a problem, and this is something you should talk to your doctor about if you've heard you've had a myocardial bridge.