Aortic Monitoring Program
At UW Health Heart and Vascular Care in Madison, Wisconsin, we have developed a preventive Aortic Monitoring Program for patients with known aneurysms, or patients who are at risk for developing aneurysms.
Through this program, we can provide careful, frequent aortic surveillance, helping you avoid risky emergency surgery.
An aortic aneurysm is an abnormal bulge in the wall of the aorta (the largest artery in the body). Aortic aneurysms can occur in the chest (thoracic aortic aneurysms) or abdomen (abdominal aortic aneurysms).
Because aortic aneurysms present few symptoms - if any - many people who have them aren't aware of their condition. As an aneurysm expands, the chances of it rupturing increase. A ruptured or dissected aneurysm can cause a stroke or life-threatening internal bleeding.
Importance of Aortic Monitoring
Although aortic aneurysms may not present any symptoms on their own, it is extremely important to monitor them regularly. This is because the aorta supplies blood to the whole body. If an aortic aneurysm ruptures, every other organ system is put at risk, and patients can quickly die from internal bleeding.
Once aneurysms reach 5.5 centimeters, the chance of rupture becomes significant - approximately 5 percent within a year and 20 percent within five years. Aneurysms larger than 5.5 centimeters have an even greater chance of rupture.
If an aneurysm does rupture, the consequences are gravely serious. Studies show that half of these patients die before they get to the hospital and the half who do make it to the hospital do not survive this course of treatment.
Surgeons estimate that 20 percent of aortic aneurysms rupture before being discovered. For patients who have or are at risk for aortic aneurysms or dissections, regular surveillance of the aorta is critical. This allows doctors to make a diagnosis and provide appropriate medical or surgical treatment before an aneurysm becomes a medical emergency.
Ascending Aortic Aneurysms
Aneurysms of the part of the aorta leading up from the heart (the ascending aorta) rarely rupture. These types of aneurysms tend to dissect, meaning that the three layers of the aortic wall separate (learn more about aortic aneurysm/dissection).
This most often results in stroke, heart attack, or death. If a patient has a known enlargement of the ascending aorta, the risk of dissection increases dramatically with size.
As with a ruptured aneurysm, the only treatment for a dissected aneurysm is emergency surgery, which is five to 10 times more risky than planned surgery. Cardiac surgeons are usually called upon to address ascending aortic aneurysms. Call (608) 263-0439 for more information.
According to the Society of Thoracic Surgeons, approximately 15,000 people die each year from ruptured or dissected aortic aneurysms. It is the 13th leading cause of death in the United States.