News / Health

New Technique Avoids Major Surgery If Aneurysm Caught in Time

A man points at the Aorta, the largest artery in the body, while holding a model of the human heart
A man points at the Aorta, the largest artery in the body, while holding a model of the human heart

Multimedia

Carol Pearson

The American Heart Association reports that the death rate from diseases affecting the heart and blood vessels has dropped by almost 30 percent since the 1990's. Still, heart disease remains a major killer in the United States. It is what claimed the life of US diplomat Richard Holbrooke, who died of a burst aorta December 13.  

The aorta is the biggest artery in the body. It travels from the heart to the abdomen and carries blood to the other organs and other arteries. Healthy arteries are smooth and elastic, but in a weak one, blood flowing through can cause it to form a bulge. If that bulge tears open, chances of survival are slim.

There are few symptoms beforehand and even with immediate medical treatment, only a small percentage patients survive. Risk factors include age.

Dr. Richard Rubin, the chief cardiologist at Sibley Hospital in Washington, said, "As we get older, the aorta gets a little more brittle.  Forces like high blood pressure and athrosclerotic plaque in the arteries can weaken the wall of the aorta and make it more brittle, and then at some point, if the pressure is excessive, it can rupture."

There are other factors, such as excessive weight or sudden bursts of energy.  

"What is especially dangerous is a sudden surge in the pressure, for example, when you are shoveling snow or if somebody askes you to move a piece of furniture and you give a tremendous exertion, your blood pressure can skike up suddenly, and that can be especially tearing to the wall of the aorta," said Dr. Rubin.

Aneurysms can be detected by X-ray or by imaging techniques such as an echocardiogram, an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) or a CT scan. That's how Kevin Healey's doctor detected his aneurysm two years ago.

"He did an echogram, and noticed an irregularity in the size of the heart. So he followed that up with a CT scan and found an aneurysm on the aorta," said Healey.

Doctors repaired Healey's aneurysm, but Dr. Rubin explains that when the aneurysm suddenly bursts, the situation becomes a life-or-death emergency. "When this happens, the volume of blood in your body gets dumped into the chest cavity or the abdominal cavity, and that is a medical emergency. Your blood will leak out, your blood pressure will drop, and then all of the vital organs of the body will not receive the proper amount of blood because it has leaked out through the tear," he said.

Doctors can cut out the aneurysm and replace it with a patch or artificial piece of blood vessel. Some Australian doctors have devised a way to repair an aneurysm without major surgery.

Dr. Tony Grabs performs this procedure at St. Vincent's Hospital in Sydney. "The significant improvement in the design, the technology, has enabled us to undertake this operation really from two small cuts in the groin and also a small cut in the arm to get access to the arteries.  So it really is revolutionary and changes the whole way that certainly I think about the treatment of aneurysms," he said.

While age can be a factor, doctors say keeping your cholesterol, blood pressure and weight within normal limits can help keep your aorta healthy and reduce your chances of having an aneurysm.

You May Like

Karzai's Legacy: Missed Opportunities?

Afghanistan's president leaves behind a much different nation than the one he inherited, yet his legacy from 13 years in power is getting mixed reviews More

Video Secret Service Chief Under Fire for White House Security Breach

Julia Pierson faces tough questions from lawmakers after recent intrusion at White House, says: 'It is clear that our security plan was not executed properly' More

Frustrated, Liberian Students Want Ebola Fight Role

Thousands have volunteered to go to counties, rural villages to talk to people in their language about deadly virus More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihadi
X
Mahi Ramakrishnan
September 30, 2014 2:16 PM
Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Iran's Rouhani Skeptical on Syria Strikes

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani expressed skepticism Friday that U.S.-led airstrikes in Iraq and Syria could crush Islamic State militants. From New York, VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports the president was also hopeful that questions about Iran’s nuclear program could be resolved soon.
Video

Video US House Speaker: Congress Should Debate Authorization Against IS

As wave after wave of U.S. airstrikes target Islamic State militants, the speaker of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives says he would be willing to call Congress back into session to debate a formal, broad authorization for the use of military force. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington, where legislators left town 10 days ago for a seven-week recess.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Video

Video Ebola Robs Liberians of Chance to Say Good-Bye to Loved Ones

In Liberia, where Ebola has killed more than 1,500 people, authorities have worked hard to convince people to allow specialized burial teams to take away dead bodies. But these safety measures, while necessary, make it hard for people to say good bye to their loved ones. VOA's Anne Look reports on the tragedy from Liberia.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid