DEAR DR. DONOHUE: In 1995 I underwent quadruple heart bypass surgery. Now, 11 years later, an angiogram was taken and I was told that the grafts are not functioning well. A vein from my left leg was used for the grafts. As a result, a second bypass appears to be imminent. Is this a common occurrence? – I.C.

ANSWER:
Heart artery grafts are an amazing medical triumph. They save lives. They prevent heart attacks. They bring blood to a blood-starved heart. However, they don’t cure the underlying processes that clog blood vessels. Those processes are atherosclerosis – artery hardening – and artery blockage with cholesterol, fat and other material. Diet, exercise, weight loss and cholesterol and blood pressure control are things over which people have control and which can keep arteries free of obstructing buildup.

Genes, however, are something we cannot control. And their influence on artery hardening goes on. They also influence buildup in grafts.

In about 10 years after bypass surgery, plaque – the obstructing buildup on artery walls – greatly affects the flow of blood through many grafts. The degree to which it obstructs blood flow depends on how much people have done on their own to prevent plaque formation and how much influence their genes have on plaque buildup. It also depends on the kind of grafts used. Artery grafts resist plaque buildup better than vein grafts, but artery grafts are not always possible.

You are not unique. Repeat bypass surgery is relatively common.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I have lived in the Great Lakes area all my life, and for most of my life I have had asthma. I am now retired, and people tell me I wouldn’t have any trouble with asthma if I moved to the Southwest. My family and friends are here, and I don’t want to pull up stakes and move. But I would if I thought it would help my asthma. Would it? – J.D.

ANSWER: D
on’t move until you visit there for a length of time. Some asthmatics find the dry and relatively pollen-free air of the Southwest beneficial.

Not all do, and not all Southwest locales are free of air pollution and pollen. You have to see for yourself.

The asthma booklet presents this illness and its treatment in detail. Readers can obtain a copy by writing: Dr. Donohue – No. 602, Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475. Enclose a check or money order (no cash) for $4.75 U.S./$6.75 Can. with the recipient’s printed name and address. Please allow four weeks for delivery.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I have been under treatment for depression for more than 10 years. I take medicine and see a doctor for it, and I have done so for all these years. My depression has gotten a little better for short periods, but it has never gone completely and it still affects my life greatly. I have been on many different medicines. They don’t help me a lot. My doctor has suggested shock treatment. The thought scares me. What’s your opinion on it? – R.W.

ANSWER:
ECT – electroconvulsive, or shock, therapy – suffers an undeservedly bad reputation because of its name and because of the way it has been portrayed in books and film.

Nowadays, an observer sees nothing happening to a patient undergoing shock therapy. The patient is premedicated, and there are no muscle contractions during the procedure.

This treatment has a valuable place in the treatment of depression. It is particularly beneficial for someone like you, who doesn’t respond well to medicine and talk therapy. You have nothing to fear from having it. You have more to fear from continuing depression.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: Enclosed is an ad for a gelatin with minerals and vitamins in it. I have arthritis in my knees. I have been taking it. What is your opinion of it? – J.H.

ANSWER:
I’m familiar with the product. I haven’t found any medical endorsements for it. It won’t hurt you. I can’t say if it will help you. How about letting me know if it does you any good?

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: My daughter-in-law is in her eighth month of pregnancy. The doctor told her that her baby daughter appears to have only one kidney. How serious is this situation? – A.B.

ANSWER:
Nature has been most generous in giving us two kidneys. We can do well with only one and manage with only part of one.

If the baby has no other problems, she can expect a normal life.

DEAR READERS: On Nov. 30, I mentioned that I located a reader’s town on the map. It was something said in jest. I am not stalking that reader, or any other.

Dr. Donohue regrets that he is unable to answer individual letters, but he will incorporate them in his column whenever possible. Readers may write him or request an order form of available health newsletters at P.O. Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475. Readers may also order health newsletters from www.rbmamall.com


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