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Overview

As the human heart pumps in deoxygenated blood to the lungs and pumps out oxygenated blood to all other parts of the body, it is performing the most essential activity in the human body. But once the pumping in and out of the blood is done, how does it travel to the other parts of the body? The oxygen rich blood travels to the different parts of the body from the heart, through the largest blood vessel in the human body – the aorta. The aorta begins at the top of the left ventricle of the heart.

Since the aorta carries the blood to the different part of the body, it is important that the artery as well as the aortic valve are in good condition. Sometimes though, it is possible that there is a bulge in the aorta due to weakening. This is known as aortic aneurysm. The bulge or aneurysm, may not be harmful in itself, but it exerts a lot of pressure on the aorta. If the aneurysm bursts, the blood being carried by the aorta may fill up all the other organs of the body resulting in a fatality.

There are no prominent aortic aneurysm symptoms, but some of the symptoms that may be because of this are

  • Chest Pain
  • Back Pain
  • Jaw Pain

 

But in most cases, the doctor may identify an aneurism accidentally, while checking you for some other problems. Your doctor may also monitor you for the aortic aneurysm symptoms if you have any of the following
  • Marfan Syndrome
  • Loeys-Dietz Syndrome
  • Vascular Ehlers Danlos Syndrome
  • A family history of aneurysm

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There are two important classifications of Aortic Aneurysm

1. Thoracic Aortic Aneurysm – This occurs in the part of the aorta that passes through the thoracic cavity, i.e. near the chest cavity. 2. Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm – This type of aneurysm occurs in that part of the aorta that passes through the abdominal cavity. The doctor will monitor your heart aneurysm every 6 months or so to keep a check on whether it is going to be harmful or not. As a rule of thumb, if the aorta swells to about 1.5 times its diameter, it can be problematic. For any aneurysm less than approximately 5 cm, the doctors will not advise for surgery. Instead, they would treat it with lifestyle changes or medication as far as possible. The medication may include medicines, to reduce blood pressure or blood thinning medicines. If your aneurysm keeps growing, the doctors may decide to perform Aortic Root Surgery. The Aortic Root surgery is a type of aortic aneurysm treatment, where the doctors perform an open heart surgery to remove the bulge. This is also called aortic aneurysm repair treatment. In this, the doctors attach (graft) a fabric tube, after removing the aneurysm. There is a possibility that the aneurysm is only affecting the aorta, while the aortic valve is completely fine. In such a case, the doctor will perform the surgery only on the root and connect the graft to the healthy aortic valve. This is called aortic root surgery. This is preferred in younger patients, who have a healthy valve that can support all their activities once the aortic aneurysm in the root is removed by surgery. There may also be a case, where both the aorta as well as the aortic valve are damaged. In this case, the surgeon may opt to repair or replace the valve along with the aortic root treatment. This is also referred to as Freestyle Aortic Root Replacement. The recovery after the aortic aneurysm surgery is quite similar to other open heart surgeries and it may take anywhere between a month to six weeks, before you are able to resume your regular activities. Your doctor will most probably suggest a cardiac rehabilitation program once you are back home from the hospital. Even after your rehabilitation program is over and you have restarted your day to day life, it is advisable to make a few lifestyle changes like

  • Quit Smoking and Drinking – Smoking and drinking are bad for your general health, but if you have undergone an aneurysm surgery, these are especially harmful.
  • Avoid Stress – Avoid stress if you have an aneurysm, like your life depends on it. Because it does! Over-stressing will cause your blood pressure to rise and may cause the aneurysm to burst.
  • Monitor and take charge of your diet – A healthy meal is a secret to a long life. And if living with an aneurysm or a chance of one, it’s better to focus on what you are eating and avoid any chances of your blood pressure going out of control.
  • Try not to go for strenuous exercises – Lifting weights, running or any other activity that strains the blood vessels should be avoided at any cost.

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