WHAT CONDITIONS DO OUR SURGEONS TREAT?
- Heart failure - the heart is unable to pump sufficient blood to meet the body's needs.
- Atherosclerosis - a build-up of plaque on the inside walls of the arteries that reduces or blocks blood flow.
- Heart valve conditions - structural problems of the heart that can affect its function.
- Cardiomyopathy - a condition in which the heart muscle becomes enlarged, thick or rigid.
- Coronary artery disease - the build-up of plaque on the heart's arteries that may lead to heart attack.
- Mitral valve prolapse - the heart's mitral valve doesn't close smoothly, allowing blood to leak backward causing a heart murmur.
- Thoracic aortic aneurysm - a weakened, bulging area in the upper part of the major blood vessel feeding blood to the body.
An aortic aneurysm is an abnormal bulge in the wall of the aorta. The aorta is the main blood vessel which carries oxygen rich blood from the heart down into the chest and abdominal region and then divides into a blood vessel that supplies each leg. It is the largest artery in the body.
An aneurysm can develop anywhere along the aorta and other sections of the vasculature and also of the heart. This poses a serious health risk, depending on the location and six, as it can rupture (tear) causing life threatening internal bleeding. When detected in time, highly trained cardiothoracic surgeons can repair the aneurysm.
This occurs when layers of the aorta tear and separate from each other. The presence of an aortic aneurysm increases your risk of having an aortic dissection. When the layers separate blood flow increases into these layers causing bulging/ aneurysm. Left untreated it could lead to a fatal rupture.
What can cause aortic aneurysms?
Most aneurysms are caused by atherosclerosis, a hardening of the artery that can damage the arterial wall. While your arteries are normally smooth inside, as we age plaque builds up in the walls and over time causes the aorta to become stiff and weak. The risk of atherosclerosis increases if you: smoke, have high blood pressure, high cholesterol, are overweight, and/or have a history of cardiovascular or peripheral vascular disease. Listed are some diseases which can increase the risk of an aneurysm: Marfan syndrome (a genetic connective tissue disorder), presence of bicuspid aortic valve, syphilis, tuberculosis and rarely, trauma such as a severe fall or a car accident.
Early diagnosis is critical to managing this condition. A diagnosis is difficult because generally there are no symptoms until a rupture occurs. If your physician suspects an aneurysm the following tests may be ordered: chest x-ray, computed tomography (CT scan), MRI, ultrasound of the heart, abdominal ultrasound, and angiography.
Your cardiac surgeon will discuss with you upon completion of the assessment, options for medical or surgical treatment. This may mean a watchful wait and every 6 months to one year follow-up with CT scans to observe for changes. It is imperative that your blood pressure be closely monitored and blood pressure medication be taken as prescribed by your physician. A statin medication which lowers your cholesterol will be prescribed to maintain the health of your blood vessels.
When the aortic aneurysm is large, enlarging quickly or you become symptomatic, prompt treatment is needed to prevent rupture. After opening the chest wall the weakened area is removed and a graft of artificial material is sewn in its place. If the aneurysm is close to the aortic valve, the valve may also need to be replaced during the procedure. The aortic valve regulates blood flow from the heart to the aorta.
Surgical repair is complex and requires an experienced cardiothoracic team of surgeons and anesthesiologists. The hospital stay is approximately 5 days. Follow-up care is meticulously monitored by your surgeon thru CT scans. You will be advised by your physician to adopt a heart healthy lifestyle. This includes moderate amount of exercise, maintaining a diet low in fat and salt and taking prescribed medications. Your healing process and guidelines to follow are the same as for those who underwent coronary artery bypass surgery or valve surgery. It is strongly advised that prior to any invasive procedure, for example dental cleaning or colonoscopy, that your medical doctor treat you prophylactic ally with oral antibiotics.
Heart failure is a condition that can develop when the heart cannot pump sufficient amounts of blood throughout the body. It does not mean that a heart has stopped or is about to stop working. Instead, it means that the heart muscle has become weak or damaged over time and, as a result, the heart can no longer fill and/or properly pump blood to maintain normal body functions. Heart failure can occur in people of all ages.
There are different types of heart failure. Right-sided heart failure is when the heart cannot fill with enough blood to properly pump it to the lungs to pick up oxygen. Left-side heart failure is when the heart cannot pump enough oxygen-rich (red) blood (from the lungs) to the rest of the body.
CAUSES OF HEART FAILURE
Many factors can cause or contribute to development of heart failure. The most common causes of heart failure are coronary artery disease (CAD), high blood pressure and diabetes. Other conditions and diseases that can lead to heart failure include:
- Congenital heart defects (present at birth)
- Heart muscle disease (due to injury or infection)
- Heart valve disorders (present at birth or due to infection, heart attacks or damage from heart disease)
- Arrhythmias or irregular heart beats
- Cancer treatment
- Thyroid disorders
- Substance abuse including alcohol, cocaine and other illegal drug use
- Overuse of vitamin E
HEART FAILURE SYMPTOMS
The most common signs and symptoms of heart failure are:
- Shortness of breath or trouble breathing
- Chronic fatigue (tiredness)
- Swelling of the legs, ankles, feet, abdomen, liver and sometimes neck veins
All of these symptoms typically result from fluid buildup in the body. Initially, these symptoms may appear after routine physical activity like climbing stairs and then get progressively worse while getting dressed or even walking across a room. In severe cases, people who are lying down may experience shortness of breath.
The fluid buildup from heart failure also causes weight gain, frequent urination and a cough that worsens at night in lying positions. This cough may be a sign of acute pulmonary edema (too much fluid in the lungs) which requires emergency treatment.
There is no cure for heart failure. As the condition worsens, medical procedures or surgery may be necessary to control heart failure symptom. Learn more about the procedures and surgeries available for people with heart failure.