Aortic dissection, aortic aneurysm - The aorta - Life after an aortic dissection
Hello all. I had valve-sparing aotic root replacement surgery last December and found this site while looking for further information. So, thank you to everyone who has posted their story. This is what happened to me...
In January 2010, I was diagnosed with a dilated aortic root. It was found purely by chance - I had an ECG performed by my doctor because I was still very short of breath a few months after having had pneumonia. The shortness of breath proved to be nothing more sinister than the leftovers from the pneumonia. There were no 'cardiac' symptoms whatsoever. The ECG showed a very slight abnormality (it turned out to be a defect on the machine!) and I was referred to a cardiologist for an echo scan. The scan showed that my aortic root was 4.5cm, when it was expected to be in the region of 3.2cm.
My job involved a lot of heavy lifting, so I was very lucky that this was found at the right time. I was immediately signed off work and was told to be carefull and not to lift anything heavier than an average weight shopping bag. Subsequent echo scans showed that the dilation was getting bigger. I was put on Losartan tablets (beta-blockers were ruled out due to asthma) and was told that my only treatment option was to wait until the aneurysm reached 5cm, at which point I would be referred to a surgeon. In the meantime, along with my first degree blood relatives, I was referred to a cardio-genetic clinic for tests into connective tissue disorders. Fortunately, these disorders were soon ruled out, but the cause of my aneurysm remains a mystery.
Nearly eighteen months after it was first diagnosed, my aneurysm reached the 'magic' figure of 5cm and things started moving - I was sent for a cardiac MRI, an angiogram and was referred to a surgeon. The surgeon explained that the aneurysm would be cut out as part of open heart surgery and would be replaced with a dacron graft. He was confident that he could re-implant my own aortic valve. The surgery was provisionally booked for two months later, but, this date came and went. Another date came and went. My third date, when the op finally went ahead was 19th december 2011.
Fortunately, there were no complications and everything went well. I had an uneventful recovery and was discharged from hospital on Christmas Eve. I was amazed at how short of breath I was. I was expecting to feel ill, but, wasn't expecting to feel so unfit. I started walking to the end of the road and gradually increased the distance - four months later, I can easily walk 5 miles or more and am as fit as I was pre-op.
During the first couple of months, I experienced the occassional 'click' from my sternum. This didn't hurt, but was very disconcerting. An elastic rib support bandage seemed to help with this, but I wasn't able to sleep on my side for about eight weeks after the op.
I cut down and stopped the painkillers (Tramadol) within a couple of weeks of being discharged from hospital. However, nearly four months on from surgery, the pain in my sternum and chest is worse than before and I take the occassional Tramadol. My GP assures me that this is because I am becoming more physically active.
A booklet from the hospital warned that nightmares are common after open heart surgery. I am lucky that I have not had nightmares, but, almost every night since I have had the most vivid, wierd and realistic dreams. Also, for a few weeks after the op, I felt very emotional and would burst in to tears for no reason. This bothered me more than anything else. I wasnt feeling sorry for myself, I would just cry for no reason. I dont know what caused this, but it has now finished.
I am continuing to recover well, despite the pains from my chest wound, and am getting fitter all the while. I have just finished an eight week Cardica Rehabilitation programme and am hoping to return to work soon. However, I am employed as a lorry driver and had to tell the DVLA about my op. Unfortunately, their rules state that aortic root replacement means a permenant ban on driving HGV's. Also, I have had conflicting information from my doctor and surgeon regarding lifting - one says there are no restrictions, the other says I should never lift anything more than 4.5kg. I have a follow-up appointment in a few weeks with the cardiologist who will hopefully clear this up.
Well, thats my story. It has helped me to set it down in words and maybe it might help someone else.....
Read your story with interest & saw the similarities in my own & so many others on this web site
The physical & emotional drain is enormous & it changes every day, if not by the hour. Your getting through it, & it seems to me you have coped very well.
It always helps to share your thoughts & a trouble shared as they say.
I am after my second opp, now with a Dacron implant like you. Life will never be the same but we fight the challenges on a day to day basis & we get through it.
Wishing you well
As someone that earned his living as a driver have you ever been involved in an accident that caused you to be hurt by a seat belt after perhaps having to slam on the brakes suddenly? The pathology on my dissection suggests that my aneurism was high up on the aortic root and obviously above the aortic valve. My aneurism went unnoticed for many years but eventually corrupted the valve and i had to get the valve replaced as well as the dissection. What my point is that there is a school of thought that these anuerysms are caused by an impact injury. My wife reminded me that some years ago I cracked my sternum in a seat belt injury and my wife is convinced that this started the aneurysm and the ensuing corruption of the valve (haven't been able to broach the subject with my doctor yet). It is just something you may not have thought of and it could well be an industrial injury that caused your issue.
Thanks for your coments. I was in a road accident - without apparant injury - but, it was about 6 yrs before my aneurysm was diagnosed. I did discuss this with the cardiologist who said road accidents could sometimes cause these aneurysms. But, in my case this was unlikely due to the timescales. The cause remains a mystery.....