|Picture courtesy of frog-life-cycle.com|
So that is it - nothing to do with frogs at all! It is a gruesome thought that our own blood, powered by our heart, is tearing apart our largest blood vessel, separating the layers of our aortic wall.
They do study something in the cath lab - typically the arteries of the heart. They are looking at these arteries to see if they have any blockage - commonly called heart disease. "Cath" stands for catheter, which is threaded into the arteries of the heart, where x-rays pictures of arteries high-lighted by dye are taken. This is the angiogram or heart cath.
But sometimes, while looking at the arteries of the heart in someone with chest pain, they may discover the heart is fine, but there is something else - a torn, bulging aorta. It is one of the most critical, dangerous discoveries in the human body - terrifying for medical professionals, patients, and families. Getting the person out of the cath lab and into the operating room is the only hope for someone with Type A dissection. Sometimes, they make it against all odds. Sometimes, they do not.
Heart disease is the number one killer of both men and women. But the diseased aorta kills too. Because of the confusion with heart disease, the number of people it kills is not known. What about those deaths thought to be heart attacks, but unconfirmed by autopsy or other clear evidence?
When the aorta is torn and bleeding (dissection), there is no time to be lost. Greater awareness of the OTHER KILLER in the chest can help medical professionals, patients, and families think about and find it, ideally without taking detours to the cath lab, looking for heart disease.