Aortic surgery refers to surgery involving the aorta, the large artery that leaves the heart and provides oxygen-rich blood throughout the body. Many diseases and conditions can cause the aorta to dilate (widen) or can cause aortic dissection (tear) increasing your risk for future life-threatening events.
Aortic aneurysms can occur as a result of atherosclerotic disease, infection, degenerative change or an inherited condition such as Marfan’s Syndrome. These abnormal dilations or enlargement in the wall of the aorta (the main blood vessel leading away from the heart) are progressive and develop the risk of rupture over time. Treatment involves aggressive control of hypertension and eventual surgical management with graft replacement or repair.
Occasionally as a result of atherosclerotic, degenerative, or genetic predisposition (Marfan’s disease), the layers of the aortic wall will become thin and fragile and then tear and separate resulting in a disease process known as aortic dissection. The management of acute aortic dissection involves urgent graft replacement of the diseased segment as above. Occasionally patients may have long-standing separation of layers known as chronic dissection and under certain circumstances will also require resection and replacement of the diseased aorta to prevent complications of end organ failure and rupture.
Aortic valve replacement is either an open heart procedure or a minimally invasive procedure. In an aortic valve replacement surgery, the damaged valve is removed and replaced with an artificial valve (mechanical or tissue). Several different types of replacement valves are available. Aortic valve replacement is performed by cardithoracic surgeons for treatment of narrowing (stenosis) or leakage (regurgitation) of the aortic valve.
The great vessels which include branches of the arch of the aorta may become occluded with atherosclerosis resulting in shortages of blood supply to the brain, spinal cord and upper extremities. These difficulties are frequently managed by surgical correction involving replacement or repair of one or more branches of the aortic arch.