Aortic Aneurysm: Stopping them with heart mapping

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(Credit: Ivanhoe Newswire)

More than 17,000 people die every year from an aortic aneurysm – a balloon-like bulge in the aorta. The aorta is the artery that carries blood from the heart through the chest to the rest of the body. If the aneurysm ruptures, a patient could die, and many have no symptoms prior to death. But now, researchers have created a new tracking method that could help patients who are diagnosed before tragedy strikes.

Doctors at the University of Michigan Health detected Dave Gordon’s aortic aneurysm over three years ago and monitored its growth using a new 3D measuring system called vascular deformation mapping, or VDM.

“My surgeon, then, basically advised me and said, ‘Okay, it’s gotten to the size that we probably need to operate on this and fix it.’,” Dave recalls.

Director of Aortic and Structural Heart Imaging at University of Michigan Health, Dr. Nicholas Burris, explains, “Ultimately, what we’re trying to figure out with this technique, in the long term, is who really needs that surgery and who probably doesn’t.”

An aortic aneurysm is a balloon-like growth in the artery that can rupture if it grows too large. Without VDM, the size is measured by human raters – people who look for changes by comparing flat CT images, taken months apart.

Dr. Burris adds, “You can have a hard time visually seeing the difference between the two scans, and then, ultimately, making a measurement.”

But with VDM, several high-definition images are aligned to create a 3D data set. It calculates growth with greater accuracy, and it may be a better way to determine if and when surgery is needed. Aortic aneurysms are often asymptomatic. Most, like Dave’s, are found through unrelated medical tests and surgically repaired when necessary. His treatment led to more smiles with friends for years to come.

“We want to be able to say your aorta has not changed at all with a very high degree of confidence,” Dr. Burris emphasizes.

Scans from 50 patients were used in the study. The researchers are hoping to get FDA approval for VDM within the next two years.

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