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An aortic aneurysm is a ballooning or bulging of a section in the wall of the aorta as a result of a tear or weak spot. While some aortic aneurysms never cause problems, others can grow quickly and dissect or rupture, causing hemorrhaging and death.
Aortic Aneurysm Malpractice
Aortic aneurysm is a frequent subject of medical malpractice due to diagnostic errors. Doctors need to quickly identify aneurysms and begin treatment immediately once an aneurysm or dissection is suspected. Once an aneurysm ruptures the condition becomes life threatening for patients.
If you believe that you or a loved one has suffered from medical malpractice from diagnosing and treating an aortic aneurysm or aortic disection in Maryland, call our offices today for a free consultation.
Understanding Aortic Aneurysms and Aortic Disections
The aorta is the largest artery in the body. This cane-shaped artery carries oxygen-rich blood from the heart to other parts of the body, and runs from the heart to the abdomen; it is classified as thoracic in the heart area or abdominal in the abdomen.
An aortic aneurysm occurs when the force of the blood pumping weakens and eventually splits the artery wall, allowing blood to build to seep in between the various layers or the artery. this results in the ballooning of the artery wall. Sometimes aneurysms grow slowly and do not cause harm, but aortic aneurysms can also grow quickly and rupture or disect, causing internal bleeding that can lead to shock or death.
Once the aneurysm ruptures or dissects, patients not already in a hospital have about a 30% chance of survival. If the aneurysm occurs near the heart valves it can cause congestive heart failure. Aortic aneurysms can cause blood clots to form around the tears in the wall of the artery, and these clots can break away and lodge in heart or lung arteries and cut off essential blood supply resulting in stroke or pulmonary embolism.
About 25% of all aortic aneurysms are thoracic, meaning they occur in the part of aorta that is closest to the heart. The rest are classified as abdominal and occur towards the base of the aorta.
Facts and Statistics about Aortic Aneurysm
- Aortic aneurysms and dissections account for about 45,000 deaths per year in the United States.
- About 30% of all abdominal aortic aneurysms (AAA) are discovered through routine physical routine physical examinations .
- Early screening reduces the death rates from AAA in men by 50%.
- Approximately 50% of patients with a ruptured AAA will reach the hospital alive, and only 50% of those remaining patients will survive a repair to the aorta.
- Abdominal aortic aneurysms are the 14th leading cause of death.
- About 20% of all patients with thoracic aortic aneurysms have a family member who has suffered an aortic aneurysm, and the actual rates may be much higher since many people suffer aortic aneurysms without knowing.
Risk Factors of Aortic Aneurysm
Risk factors of aortic aneurysm mostly include inherited genetic factors and manageable lifestyle factors, both of which create clear early warning signs. Risk factors include:
- Smoking tobacco
- Hypertension (high blood pressure)
- Being male—aortic aneurysms are significantly more common in men than in women
- High cholesterol
- Atherosclerosis— a buildup of plaque in the lining of the artery, including fatty substances like cholesterol
- Personal or family history of aneurysms
- Genetic disorders like Marfan syndrome and Ehlers-Danlos syndrome
- Being over 60 years old—the average age of diagnosis of aortic aneurysm is 69 years old
- Trauma to the chest
- Surgery in the chest
Symptoms of Aortic Aneurysm A Doctor Should Recognize
Only about half of all people affected with an aortic aneurysm experience symptoms. Most everyone can tolerate aortic aneurysms up to 5cm before they experience aortic aneurysm symptoms. Abdominal aortic aneurysms in particular often do not have symptoms. Though an aneurysm at this stage may not be life threatening, if it grows larger than 5cm it is at greater risk for dissecting or rupturing and causing serious complications.
Symptoms of an unruptured aortic aneurysm include:
- Pain in the neck, back, legs or chest without a known cause
- Chest pain that radiates to the back
- Shortness of breath
- If the aneurysm is abdominal, a pulsating sensation in the abdomen
Symptoms of a ruptured aortic aneurysm include:
- Sudden and severe pain in the back, abdomen, or chest
- Signs of shock like rapid heartbeat, confusion, and light-headedness
- Nausea and vomiting
If you experience any symptoms of a ruptured aneurysm call 911 immediately.
Diagnosing Aortic Aneurysm
Most aortic aneurysms today are found through CT scans and echocardiograms for unrelated conditions. Most doctors recommend early screening for people with a high risk of developing an aortic aneurysm. These include people with genetic defects to the aorta, those with a personal or family history of aortic aneurysm, and anyone who has had aortic surgery.
Treating Aortic Aneurysm
About 2% of people who undergo a planned aortic aneurysm repair surgery die as a result, so most doctors will recommend living with an aortic aneurysm as long as possible (before the aneurysm becomes too unsafe or bursts). Doctors can monitor the size and growth of the aneurysm with CT scans, and can recommend lifestyle changes to alleviate stress to the aneurysm.
If patients experience symptoms from their aortic aneurysm, if the aneurysm is growing at a quick rate, or if the aneurysm is over 5cm in size, doctors may choose to surgically remove the aneurysm. Aortic aneurysm surgery typically involves open chest surgery to remove and place a graft over weakened sections of the aorta to reduce the possibility of rupture. Doctors may also be able to place grafts on the aorta using endovascular repair with a long thin tube called a catheter inserted near the groin instead of through open-chest surgery.
Lawsuits For Aortic Aneurysm Medical Malpractice In Maryland
Failed diagnoses of aortic aneurysms are often the result of doctors believing that the symptoms point to another condition. A recent study found a 44% misdiagnosis rate for ruptured abdominal aortic aneurysm, with the most common misdiagnoses being a blockage in the urinary tract and heart attack. CT scans should have a high success rate of aortic aneurysm diagnosis when used properly, but most missed and failed diagnoses are the result of delay, misinterpreting or misreading symptoms or CT results and ordering the wrong or inappropriate diagnostic tests.
Once an aortic aneurysm has ruptured, patients out of the hospital face only a 30% chance of survival. Surgery for a ruptured abdominal aortic aneurysm is one of the most fatal emergency surgeries and has a 90% mortality rate. For these reasons it is extremely important that doctors use screening tests on patients who are high risk, and fully evaluate the possibility of aortic aneurysm by using the proper diagnostic tests (like a CT scan) when symptoms are present.
Do I have A Case For Medical Malpractice After An Aortic Aneurysm in Baltimore?
If doctors fail to provide the proper standard of care when diagnosing and or treating an aortic aneurysm, patients may suffer temporary or permanent disability, or death. Aortic aneurysms have clear risk factors and simple diagnostic tests can find them, but unfortunately they are still frequently misdiagnosed.
If you believe that you or a loved one has suffered from negligence in an aortic aneurysm diagnosis, call the offices of Gilman & Bedigian today. Our attorneys will help you understand your legal options and will get you the compensation you deserve. We successfully have handled numerous misdiagnosis cases involving aortic aneurysms and dissections.