The Case of the Doctor Whose Brain Was Stronger Than His Heart

Albert B. Lowenfels, MD


December 07, 2012

The Case

The patient was a 65-year-old highly regarded physician who noted the abrupt onset of chest pain while attending a hospital board meeting. He immediately left the meeting, accompanied by a colleague, and died a few minutes after the onset of chest pain.

Past Medical History

During a period of stress and hard work at age 32 years, the patient became ill with what may have been a pulmonary infection. At age 39 years, he ruptured his Achilles tendon while dancing, leaving a prominent subcutaneous swelling. Beginning at about age 45 years, he had attacks of chest pain, weakness, dizziness, and visual impairment. It is not known whether these attacks were exercise-induced.

Personal History

The patient had 9 siblings, with an older brother who was also a physician. His father died when the patient was 13 years old. As an adult, the patient consumed alcohol and, on frequent occasions, used addictive drugs to alleviate attacks of anxiety.