Last year, September 1995, I learned that somebody in my family would need immediate surgery, to prevent an 8 cm ascending aorta aneurysm from rupturing. Since my father died 31 years ago, after surgery on the exact same aneurysm, and both his mother and her sister (my grandmother) died a sudden death at about 50, members of that part of my family were advised to have routine checks.
The same aneurysm was then discovered in my thorax, and after three cardiologists, lots of examinations and scans (a Nucleo Magnetic Resonance was the final and deciding one) I decided to have the 6.3 cm aneurysm repaired. This was done on the 28 of May 1996 in Aalst, Belgium by Dr. Vanermen. His team, and the hospital, are well known in Europe for they perform any kind of cardiovascular surgery with a high degree of efficiency and success. I came home exactly one week after that, feeling weak but happy.
I consider myself to be very lucky to have discovered this soon enough. I had had the time to think about this and had decided to wait until an organic donor piece (aortic valve and some inches of ascending aorta) became available. The main advantage being the reduced risk of infection and clotting of the blood. Both can be attributed to the use of a mechanical valve. The organic valve might (depending on the initial quality and the way I treat it) wear out in 15 to 20 years, leading to another operation. This bothers me less though than a life with risk of infection and artificial blood thinners (hope this is a correct term).
I am 31 year's old, and happy to have a chance to lead a life with quality, since I love sports. I am greatly puzzled though by the genetic factor involved here. Three or five people in my family suffered from an aneurysm at the exact same location. No doctor so far has been able to explain this. Some of them mention Marfan syndrome, but this has been ruled out for everybody in my family that had the disease. Men seem to reach the critical diameter around thirty, women around fifty.
If anybody has theories or opinions about the genetic factors in ascending aorta aneurysms, I would very much like to read them, since I am reluctant to have any children without knowing more.