Aortic Dissection

Surviving an Aortic Dissection: A Patient Survivor’s Story

Karthik Kasirajan, MD

Karthik Kasirajan, MD

In his last blog post, Dr. Veeraswamy outlined what aortic dissection is, what the symptoms are and what you can do to prevent it. Although it is best to detect aortic dissections early, it is possible to survive one. Emory Healthcare patient, Gene Winfrey is a living example. At another local hospital Gene was told he wouldn’t survive surgery to repair the aortic dissection. But Gene is tenacious and decided to schedule an appointment at Emory and he is glad he did. Gene not only survived surgery he is thriving and traveling all over the country as an evangelist. Gene says, “I tell people everywhere I go about Emory and about what happened to me. I am living proof about what happened.”

As mentioned in the last aortic dissection blog, men ages 60 – 70 are most likely to have an aortic dissection and it is relatively uncommon but it is the most common aortic emergency we see at the Emory Heart & Vascular Center. Most patients come in urgently with severe chest or abdominal pain. If not recognized and treated immediately, the tear will go through blood vessel and it is unlikely the patient will survive.

Gene knew he needed help and needed it quickly. We explained to him that if the outer layer of the aorta burst, he would have little chance of living through the dissection. We were adamant that the stent needed to be put in right away.

Luckily for Gene, treatments have changed from the past so he was a candidate for a more minimally invasive method to treat the dissection called endostents. In the past the only way to treat an aortic dissection was through open surgery. The patient benefits from the less invasive ways of performing surgery and is typically able to get home more quickly and return to work sooner with limited complications. Emory is unique in that we have access to devices that are not yet on the market.

Gene had run the Peachtree Road Race 27 straight times before this and wanted to make sure he could maintain his active lifestyle that included riding horses, playing golf and playing tennis.  I advised Gene that he could do whatever he feels like doing, and he is doing just that. He is one of the most active 88-year-old persons  I have ever met!!

Gene summarizes his experience at Emory as follows “They (the other hospital) said we can’t do it. You can’t live through it. I came here and Dr. K said you can. I am 88 years old and still living. I advise anyone to come to Emory, I think it is the greatest in the world.”

Check out our video about Gene and his story below, or visit our website to learn more about Aortic Dissection & Gene’s story:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VqN1YmWCJYo

About Karthik Kasirajan, MD:
Dr. Kasirajan specializes in surgery and vascular surgery, and has been practicing at Emory since 2003. Several of his areas of interest include peripheral arterial disease, endovascular surgery, abdominal and aortic aneurysm, vascular surgery, thrombotic disease, and stroke. Dr. Kasirajan holds many organizational leadership memberships, including the European Society for Vascular Surgery, International College of Surgeons, and the Peripheral Vascular Surgical Society, and is widely published in publications such as the Journal of Endovascular Therapy and the Journal of Vascular Surgery.