Your Health: A new way to treat aortic dissection

Because the aorta carries blood from the heart to the circulatory system, when it splits open, it usually means sudden death.
Published: Oct. 19, 2022 at 5:24 PM EDT
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LANSING, Mich. (WILX) - Aortic dissection is a tear in the aorta, the largest artery in the body. Because the aorta carries blood from the heart to the circulatory system, when it splits open, it usually means sudden death. That means time is critical.

“Fifty percent of the time, people who present with dissection don’t make it to the hospital. Of the people who do make it to the hospital, only half of those survive,” said Dr. Truc Ly. “The way we’ve gotten better results is understanding how to protect the brain during surgery. What we call antegrade cerebral protection.”

Doctors do this by using hypothermia induction, or cooling the body to preserve the brain during heart-lung bypass.

“It’s where we cool the body down and stop all blood flow to the rest of the body,” Ly said.

Sandra Fernandez loves to spend time in her kitchen, but recently, surgeons needed to treat an aortic aneurysm. Ly removed her aneurysm and replaced her heart valve during the operation and doctors induced hypothermia to protect her brain function.

“Whatever we’ve been able to fix, will stay that way for the rest of her life,” Ly said.

Fernandez woke up in recovery to a very happy family. Now she’s enjoying life and cooking for her kids using her grandmother’s precious recipes.

“I feel happy because I say, ‘OK, I’m here again, I survived!’” Fernandez said.

Acute aortic dissection can be sudden and is marked by intense chest pain. Each hour someone delays going to the hospital, the mortality rate increased by 1%.

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