The aorta is the major artery supplying blood to the body. When part of the aortic wall thins, it causes a balloon-like bulge called an aortic aneurysm, which can go undetected. This is a problem because aortic aneurysms can grow and, without treatment, dissect (or rupture) without warning.
The possibility of aortic rupture was real for Robert Palmer, a senior master technician for Ford and a race car driver who was healthy all his life. The 49-year-old was shocked to learn that he had an aortic aneurysm and was worried he might not be able to live his life the same way.
Palmer had to put his active life on hold and hand the wheel over to John Elefteriades, MD, and Sandip Mukherjee, MD, at the Yale Center for Advanced Thoracic Aortic Disease at Yale New Haven Hospital’s Aortic Institute, part of the hospital’s Heart and Vascular Center, where surgeons perform 120 to 150 aortic procedures each year. Palmer's operation was complex, as his aneurysm was in the ascending (or thoracic) aorta, an especially dangerous location. To fix it, Dr. Elefteriades would need to stop his heart, cut out the damaged aorta, and replace it with an artificial one. But the surgeon was confident that Palmer would soon be back on the racetrack.
Yale Medicine has been at the forefront of aneurysm disease. "The research that Dr. Elefteriades and his group has done here has really laid the foundation for the way we manage aneurysm disease and thoracic aneurysm," says Arnar Geirsson, MD, chief of Yale Medicine's Section of Cardiac Surgery.
This video tells Robert's story. It also features cardiac surgeons John Elefteriades, MD, and Arnar Geirsson, MD, and cardiologist Sandip Mukherjee, MD, who discuss aneurysm disease and their continuing efforts to understand, diagnose, and treat it.