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

China Announces Corruption Probe into Senior Ex-Leader

Former security chief and member of Politburo Standing Committee, Zhou Yongkang, being probed for suspected 'serious disciplinary violation' More

India, US Look to Reset Ties During Kerry Visit

This week's talks will be first high level interaction between two countries since Prime Minister Narendra Modi took charge More

Video Young African Leadership Program Renamed to Honor Mandela

YALI program, launched by President Obama in 2010, aims to build skills in business, entrepreneurship, public management and civic leadership 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.
Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spati
X
Reasey Poch
July 28, 2014 7:18 PM
China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video ESA Spacecraft to Land on a Comet

After a long flight through deep space, a European Space Agency probe is finally approaching its target -- a comet millions of kilometers away from earth. Scientists say the mission may lead to some startling discoveries about the origins of the water on earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Africans Arrive in US for Leadership Program

President Barack Obama's Young African Leadership Initiative has brought hundreds of young Africans to the United States for a six-week program aimed at building their knowledge and skills in fields such as public administration and business. Out of the 50,000 young Africans who applied for the program, just one percent was accepted. VOA's Laurel Bowman caught up with some of those who made the cut and has this report.
Video

Video In Honduras, Amnesty Rumors Fuel US Migration Surges

False rumors in Central America are fueling the current surge of undocumented young people being apprehended at the U.S. border. The inaccurate claims suggest the U.S. will give amnesty to young migrants from the region. As VOA's Brian Padden reports from Honduras, these rumors trace back to President Obama's 2012 executive order to halt deportations for some young undocumented immigrants already living in the United States.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid