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(heart and related blood vessel) disease is one of our nation’s most serious
health problems and one of the leading causes of death. The American Heart
Association estimates that approximately 84 million people in the U.S. now have
some type of cardiovascular issue and that one of every three deaths can be
traced to these conditions. The good news is that—with early detection and
appropriate intervention—many of those with heart and vascular problems can
live longer, healthier lives.
or a family member has been diagnosed with cardiovascular disease, we encourage
you to consider St. Anthony Hospital your partner in care. Our Heart and Vascular
program brings together highly skilled specialists, award-winning services and
the advanced technology of our state-of-the-art facility. And along with these
strengths comes a commitment to your best outcome and well-being.
website contains information on common cardiovascular conditions, the symptoms
and the treatment offered by St. Anthony Hospital. Please remember that the information
provided here is for educational purposes only. Your health care provider will
provide information specific to your condition.
What is a cardiothoracic aortic aneurysm?
A cardiothoracic aortic
aneurysm is a serious condition that affects more than 15,000 people in the
United States every year. It is estimated that 25 percent of aneurysms form in the
chest, and the rest in the belly.
To understand this condition, think of the aorta as a vascular “super-highway” that delivers
oxygen-rich blood from the heart to the rest of the body. Because the aorta is naturally very elastic,
it can stretch and adapt to accommodate blood flow. This normal resiliency can be lessened by
several factors, including high blood pressure, smoking, hardening of
the arteries and the aging process. When the walls of the aorta weaken,
bulges—also known as aneurysms—can form. When these weakened areas stretch
further, they can rupture, resulting in serious bleeding, blood clots and other
life-threatening conditions. Having a family history of this condition is another
risk factor that one should discuss with his or her physician.
What are the symptoms of a cardiothoracic aortic
Those with aortic aneurysms often complain of discomfort
or pain in their chest, belly and back, while others experience no symptoms.
Physicians often discover these aneurysms
while performing routine exams and tests. Generally, screening tests for
abdominal aneurysms are recommended for men who:
Screening tests are also advised for anyone with a close
relative who has had a thoracic aortic aneurysm.
Other problems—which do produce symptoms—can result from
an aortic aneurysm. A major one is the formation of blood clots. When a blood
clot forms in the chest area as the result of an aneurysm, it can move to the
brain and cause a stroke. When an aortic aneurysm occurs in the belly, blood
clots can break off and block blood flow to the legs or belly.
physician suspects you have this condition, he or she will likely order
diagnostic testing, such as an MRI, a CT scan or an ultrasound. When these
tests confirm a problem, surgical correction is generally the best course of
action. St. Anthony Hospital has a state-of-the-art facility and surgical
specialists skilled in performing open and closed surgeries such as these. For some
patients, the less-invasive procedure known as endovascular repair may be an
early detection, aortic aneurysms generally can be repaired and patients can
resume a healthy lifestyle.
What is an aortic dissection?
An aortic dissection (separation) occurs when a full or partial tear occurs in the lining of the aorta. This allows pressurized blood flow to enter the arterial wall. If not corrected, this continuous flow can result in the aorta rupturing. Most people do not survive this. Aortic dissections are
of two types:
Aortic dissections are more common among people with high blood pressure, arteriosclerotic vascular disease, and those with a family history of aortic (abdominal or thoracic) dissection. Congenital cardiovascular disorders such as Marfan's syndrome, Ehlers-Danlos syndrome and other valve-related
issues can increase risks, as well.
What are the symptoms of aortic dissection?
Symptoms of aortic dissection include sudden, severe pain in the upper back—a pain many patients describe as “ripping” or “stabbing.” This pain may radiate into the neck or jaw, and some will experience chest pain, as well. Shortness of breath is common, as is the loss of consciousness. These symptoms are signs of a critical
condition. Seek medical attention immediately. Not all people, however, experience the pain just described. Their symptoms may include a change in mental capacity (due to lack of blood supply to the brain) or numbness/tingling in the arms or legs (as
blood flow to the spinal cord is diminished).
Diagnosing an aortic dissection correctly is critical to a course of care, as treatment options vary significantly. It’s also important to rule out that the symptoms are signs of a heart attack. Imaging studies used to identify the type and location of the dissection
include echocardiograms, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), peripheral angiography and—the gold standard for this condition—computed tomography (CT) scans. St. Anthony Hospital’s state-of-the-art 128-slice CT scanner can prove a decided edge in such diagnosis.
What are the treatment
options for an aortic dissection?
What is aortic valve stenosis?
Aortic valve stenosis occurs when the aortic
valve narrows or tightens to the point it prevents normal blood flow. More
women than men experience this problem.
What are the symptoms of aortic valve stenosis?
Those with this condition may feel pain or a tight
sensation in the chest and a shortness of breath, especially when exercising.
Many people have no symptoms, which results in the stenosis being undetected.
Without treatment, the stenosis can become severe and lead to heart failure and
death. It’s estimated that as many as half of patients with aortic valve
stenosis will not survive more than two years, on average, once symptoms
What is the
treatment for aortic valve stenosis?
Until recently, the only
treatment has been open-heart surgery to replace the aortic valve. Now,
cardiovascular surgeons are able to benefit many patients—including some who
would have been too sick to undergo open-heart surgery—an option called TAVR,
which stands for transcatheter aortic valve replacement. This minimally invasive procedure requires only
small incisions in the chest wall.
What is severe aortic valve stenosis?
Aortic valve stenosis occurs when calcium
deposits build up on the aortic valve leaflets (the small flaps of tissue that
regulate the one-way flow of blood through the valve). As this narrowing
restricts the valve’s ability to fully open and close, less oxygenated blood
flows from the lungs to the brain and throughout the body.
What are the symptoms of severe aortic valve stenosis?
Common symptoms include extreme fatigue and
shortness of breath.
What is the treatment for severe valve stenosis?
If the patient is
physically able to have open-chest surgery, that is often the best option.
Others may benefit from an
option called TAVR, which stands for transcatheter aortic valve replacement. This minimally invasive procedure requires only
small incisions in the chest wall, if at all.
What is a coronary artery blockage?
An artery blockage can occur
when there is atherosclerosis of the
coronary arteries. Atherosclerosis is a disease in which
plaque composed of fat, cholesterol and calcium builds up inside the artery
walls. This prevents the vessels from delivering the nourishment the heart needs to
What are the symptoms of a coronary artery blockage?
Symptoms may include chest pain
(angina) or tightness and feeling faint or fatigued with exercise.
How are coronary artery blockages treated?
Common treatments for these
What causes heart rhythm disorders?
The healthy heart contracts—or beats—at regular intervals to
move blood throughout the body. The pattern of heartbeats is controlled by
electrical impulses that travel through the heart. If this electrical system
does not function normally, a rhythm disorder—or arrhythmia—is the result. Some irregular heartbeats—such as an
occasional extra beat or “skipping” a beat—pose no health problem. Others—such
as atrial fibrillation or AFib—can be life threatening.
serious heart rhythm disorders treated?
upon the type and severity of the disorder, cardiac specialists may prescribe
medication, implant a corrective device such as a pacemaker, or recommend an
advanced electrophysiology approach. St. Anthony Hospital was one of the first
hospitals in the nation to perform the balloon
cryoablation procedure to correct AFib. Our specialists also correct
AFib through the minimally invasive MAZE
What is lung
This is a broad term encompassing disorders that affect the
lungs and the ability to breathe. When the lungs do not function well, the body
doesn’t receive enough oxygen. Some examples of lung disease include:
How can a
cardiothoracic surgeon help?
and minimally invasive procedures can help some patients with lung disease
breathe better and enjoy a higher quality of life.
What is a
A heart murmur occurs when one of the valves that regulate blood
flow through the heart doesn’t function correctly. Heard through a stethoscope,
the normal heartbeat makes a sound like lub-DUB.
With a heart murmur, there is an extra, whooshing sound—ranging from barely
audible to loud. Most often, these problems are caused by either the mitral
valve or the aortic valve. If the valve fails to open properly, the diagnosis
is stenosis. If it leaks after
closing, the diagnosis is regurgitation.
What are the
symptoms of heart valve disease?
In its early stages, heart valve disease may produce no
symptoms. Over time, however, an individual may experience fatigue and weakness
made worse by exercising, shortness of breath chest pain or tightness, an
irregular pulse or heart palpitations, and lightheadedness. Left untreated,
heart valve disease can prove life threatening.
How is heart
valve disease treated?
specialists may use medication management for less severe issues. Often,
however, the best course is surgical valve repair or replacement.
St. Anthony Hospitals offers advanced surgical options for cardiac conditions.
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