Emergency heart surgery saves Marine veteran at Beaumont, Royal Oak
Whether treating a potentially fatal, fast-moving aortic dissection, or long-term, slowly developing issue with the largest blood vessel in the body, specialists at the new Beaumont Aortic Center treat complex aortic disease with the most advanced medical, surgical and minimally invasive options available.
The new center, located on the Beaumont Hospital, Royal Oak campus, offers expert, immediate assistance, 24/7, for rapid evaluation of patients and transfer requests. An experienced team of cardiologists, cardiac and vascular surgeons, anesthesiologists and specialists in imaging and genetics, provide high-level support to patients needing long-term management of their aortic disease.
“Working with referring cardiologists and primary care doctors across the region, Beaumont has always led the way in treating aortic disease,” said Dr. Alessandro Vivacqua, the leader of the new center and an expert surgeon in procedures involving aortic issues and disease. “Now, an organized, dedicated and easy-to-reach team can provide coordinated care at the hospital U.S. News and World Report ranked No. 1 in Michigan and one of the best in the nation for cardiology and heart surgery.”
The aorta carries blood away from the heart and to the rest of the body. In some patients, the walls of the aorta can bulge, called an aneurysm, or split, called a dissection, due to trauma, genetic conditions or other issues. Patients have the potential to bleed to death if the disruption in the aorta isn’t addressed.
Jim North, 59, of Mount Clemens, knows first-hand that expertise with aortic disease is crucial to survival.
North had just finished lifting weights in his basement when he had a spontaneous aortic dissection. When he sat down at his desk upstairs to return to his IT work, something happened as he stretched his arms over his head.
“As soon as I straightened up, my heart started to feel funny,” North said. “And, within 10 or 20 minutes, my back started hurting. So I called my wife and said, ‘I think something may have happened to my heart.’ I was going to drive myself. Then, when I was changing, she called back and said 911 is showing up at the house.”
An ambulance took North to the nearest hospital in Mt. Clemens, and a CT scan spotted the dissection. But without the capabilities to treat North, doctors there called Beaumont Hospital, Royal Oak for help. North was immediately whisked there by ambulance, where Dr. Vivacqua used a Dacron fabric sleeve to seal off North’s ruptured aorta.
“I had a Type 1 dissection of the descending thoracic aorta – that’s the worst of dissections,” North said. “If you look it up, a lot of people die en route to the hospital. Of course, I read up on stuff after the fact, but I survived.”
Key in an aortic emergency is a coordinated, timely response – before the patient bleeds out or the rupture causes damage to other organs, said Beaumont vascular surgeon Dr. O. William Brown, chairman of the section of vascular surgery at Beaumont Hospital, Royal Oak, and an integral member of the Aortic Center team. The Beaumont Aortic Center offers 24/7 aortic response in emergencies, providing immediate assistance to patients as well as referring hospitals and physicians.
“The fact that Jim didn’t wait when he experienced the sudden pain, as well as the coordinated response between the referring hospital and our team, saved his life,” Dr. Brown said. “We’re grateful to offer these advanced services to the community.”
At the Beaumont Aortic Center, nationally recognized experts treat patients with:
- acute and chronic aortic dissections
- aortic aneurysms
- aortic trauma
- aortic valve disease
- genetically induced aortic conditions
Aortic disease genetic issues that affect connective tissue – like Marfan syndrome, Loeys-Dietz syndrome, vascular Ehlers-Danlos syndrome and Turner syndrome – can also affect multiple members of a family. Beaumont Aortic Center genetic counselors work with patients and their families on evaluation and, if necessary, screenings for those who could be affected.
After North recovered, genetic testing through the Beaumont Aortic Center determined he did not have any genetic reason for his dissection.
The Beaumont Aortic Center team includes:
- Cardiovascular and vascular surgeons, and cardiac anesthesiologists for high-level procedures.
- Cardiologists focused on pre-procedure assessment of cardiovascular risk factors, long-term patient care and management, and communication with referring physicians.
- Cardiologists with expertise in advanced imaging and radiology, to clearly “see” and assess aortic disease.
- Interventional radiologists for spinal drain assessments and procedures.
- Genetic counselors to evaluate potential genetic components of aortic disease and conditions in patients and, possibly, their families.
The result is a treatment plan tailored to each patient’s unique condition, with access to multiple clinical trials. The on-site hybrid operating room – the Suzanne and Herbert Tyner Center for Cardiovascular Interventions – is equipped with the latest technology for both endovascular and open surgical procedures, as well as a conscious sedation option for some procedures to be performed without a breathing tube.
The Beaumont Aortic Center: 24/7 Access
Contact the Beaumont Aortic Center at 947-551-0366 Choose option 1 for immediate assistance 24/7 for rapid evaluation of patients and transfer requests.
Physicians with stable outpatient referrals should choose option 2 to speak with a staff member during business hours. Calls outside of business hours will be returned within one business day.