Treatments & Procedures
The aorta is the body’s primary artery. The heart pumps blood from the left ventricle into the aorta through the aortic valve. From there, oxygenated blood is distributed throughout the body. There are a number of different diseases of the aorta, including aortic aneurysm, aortic dissection and aortic stenosis. At Houston Methodist, a multidisciplinary team of doctors will help determine the right treatment for each individual patient with aortic disease, which could include medication or surgery.
Medications for Aortic Disease
Medications are often useful in treating the symptoms of aortic disease. Drugs may be prescribed to control blood pressure and hypertension and also to alleviate pain. In some cases beta blockers may be used to prevent arrhythmias.
For many patients, drugs alone can significantly slow the progression of an aortic disease, such as aortic aneurysm.
Surgery for Aortic Disease
For some patients, a surgical approach is necessary. In an open aortic aneurysm repair, the surgeon replaces damaged blood vessels with synthetic grafts. The average stay in the hospital after open aortic aneurysm surgery is seven days, and most patients are able to go back to work within four to six weeks.
Another surgery commonly performed is aortic root repair. Some diseases cause dilatation (bulging) of the ascending aorta. When the ascending aorta becomes too large, surgery is usually recommended to prevent severe complications. In an aortic root repair, the surgeon replaces the damaged vessel wall with a synthetic tube. If the aortic root is itself diseased, it will also be replaced.
Sometimes, however, the aortic root is dilated, but the aortic valve leaflets (flaps) remain healthy. In this situation, an aortic valve-sparing root replacement is performed. In this procedure, the surgeon replaces the aortic root to maintain the shape necessary for normal valve function, but preserves the natural aortic valve. This is usually enough to treat most aortic valve leaks that are not caused by a disease in the valve itself.
Minimally Invasive Surgery for Aortic Disease
Stent repair is a minimally invasive method used to treat aortic aneurysms. This process allows the surgeon to replace the damaged vessel wall from the inside by inserting a stent (an expandable tube of tissue and metal) inside the aorta through a puncture in the groin.
This procedure removes the pressure from the aortic aneurysm and prevents further expansion. Compared with open surgery, stent repair allows for a considerably shorter recovery period and usually requires no incisions.
There are also procedures that combine open surgery and minimally invasive surgery to treat aortic conditions. A hybrid procedure, known as de-branching, uses synthetic grafts to reroute blood to the vessels leading from the aortic arch, preventing interruption of blood flow to the brain and arms. When this is completed, the surgeon implants a stent that isolates the diseased portion of the aorta from the inside.
The Aortic Program, part of the Houston Methodist DeBakey Heart & Vascular Center, serves the specific needs of patients living with complex aortic conditions. When aortic problems arise, patients know they can rely on Aortic Program doctors and staff for prompt, patient-focused care. Each member of our multidisciplinary team of cardiologists, surgeons, nurse practitioners and other professionals has years of experience in treating conditions specific to the aorta. Our unique combination of unparalleled expertise and advanced technology enables us to offer each patient a treatment program tailored to his or her needs.