Thursday, May 30, 2013

Descending Aortic Dissection, Sonogram and video view of a Marfan Syndrome Leg Aorta

Made it through my periodic sonogram check of the dissected descending aorta in my right leg yesterday at the cardiologist office in St. Augustine.

Technology is so advanced these days and what used to be rather dull, uninteresting paper and pencil diagrams or x-rays are now colorful real-time views of body parts.

Take for example, my dissected descending aorta.  The cardiologist wanted to update the visuals of the dissection down through my leg and look at the vein sufficiency at the same time.  He orders these tests run on a regular basis to make sure the aorta is not in active, uncontrollable aneurysm mode, to ensure there are no clots and keep a check on the status of the torn (dissected) intima layer of the large blood vessel.

Several weeks ago he instructed me to have a CT scan completed on my heart section.  The CT scan is a highly accurate test that provides detailed views of the heart, aorta and other body parts he may be interested in viewing.

However the CT scan did not record images of the aorta passing through my lower abdomen or leg.  So the cardiologist decided to use a sonogram test to view the blood vessels in the lower part of my body.  This sonogram test is generally the same test used that we are all familiar with from visits to the obstetrician when someone is pregnant.  The test uses sound waves to create an image of the body's organs, muscle and tissue.  Also referred to as ultrasound and sometimes echogram, the test can document conditions of the body with relative accuracy.

To run the test, the technologist applies a gel across the area to be viewed and holds the sonogram receiver against the body.  Images are recorded according to the receiver position and angle.
Ultrasound/sonogram test used to check the dissected aorta in my right leg

The tests I had run yesterday included gathering images of my veins, the valves within the veins, my arteries and specifically cross-sectional views of my artery depicting the torn inner layer (dissection).

Interestingly, the ultrasound test gives one a clear view of what the body's blood vessels look like.

My dissected aorta should be a hollow vessel with one open interior diameter.  However the torn inner layer is instead flapping about, having created a false channel similar to a sock, inside the aorta's interior.  This false channel is like a dead end pocket for blood to flow into but offering no way out other than back out through the tear hole into which the blood flowed in the first place as shown in the following video.

In my case the false channel takes up almost half of the aorta's interior flow space, limiting blood flow to my leg and foot. 

One of the reasons my cardiologist wanted to look at the aorta was because my right foot recently started to grow - he refers to the term as swelling - and was wondering if a change to the leg blood flow was occurring.

The radiological technician yesterday did congratulate me on having the 'longest dissection' she had ever seen, and I did take the compliment with pride.  After all, if you have to have a medical issue it is always good I suppose to have a rare condition rather than the standard run-of-the-mill malady.

Anyway,  for those of you who have never seen a cross section of a dissected aorta from someone who is still alive, today is your opportunity to see an example in black and white and living color!

Awareness and education are always critically important and I hope if you haven't taken your blood pressure or seen your cardiologist lately this post may encourage you to do so soon.

In the meantime, the web is full of useful information about the heart, the cardiovascular system, Marfan Syndrome and other connective tissue disorders.  Think Heart Health!

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