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Coordinated Aortic Disease Care

Your aorta is one of the body’s most important vessels. It carries blood from the heart to the rest of your body. Aortic disease doesn’t always cause symptoms but can sometimes lead to life-altering complications, like stroke. 

At Virginia Mason Franciscan Health, you receive coordinated care from cardiac and vascular surgeons. They are among the few teams in the region capable of delivering advanced treatments that protect your future health. Our commitment to aortic disease excellence has earned national recognition for some of our locations.

Our multidisciplinary approach to aortic disease

The aorta is a cane-shaped vessel starting at your heart, curving upward briefly, then down through the length of the abdomen. Traditionally, cardiac surgeons handled conditions in the cane-shaped area. Vascular surgeons treated disease below this point. But aortic disease treatment isn’t always clear-cut. For issues affecting the thoracic aorta (segment that goes through the chest), a team approach is best, like the one we offer.   

You see a cardiac and vascular surgeon specializing in aortic disease in a single visit. Multidisciplinary care helps us efficiently manage issues affecting multiple sections of the aorta. It also enables you to receive complete care if you have aortic disease plus other heart or vascular conditions.

Coordinated aortic disease care: Why choose us?

Aortic disease is challenging to treat, so it’s essential to receive services from an experienced team like ours. We regularly treat conditions like aneurysms and narrowing (stenosis), enabling you to receive timely, effective care. Our doctors are also available on short notice to treat emergencies. We are one of the only programs in the area with this capability. Meet our team.

Highlights of our program include: 

  • National recognition: Virginia Mason Medical Center and St. Joseph Medical Center are among the Best Hospitals in Washington, according to U.S. News & World Report. We rank among the top 50 nationally for Cardiology, Heart and Vascular Surgery, including abdominal aortic aneurysm repair. This designation recognizes our commitment to clinical excellence and an exceptional patient experience.  
  • Team approach: Our multidisciplinary care helps us pinpoint thoracic aortic disease issues and develop a treatment plan in fewer visits. Cardiac and vascular surgeons discuss the best options and timing for you before providing personalized recommendations. In some cases, we operate together during the same procedure so you can achieve the best possible outcomes.
  • Range of treatment options: Advanced thoracic aortic disease that is more likely to cause a stroke often requires a procedure. We offer minimally invasive endovascular procedures involving long tubes, tiny incisions and real-time imaging. Our expertise also includes open surgical procedures if this option is better for your needs.
  • Lifelong aortic disease care: Aortic disease can worsen over time, even if initial therapies are successful. Yearly checkups with ultrasound enable us to detect changes in their earlier stages and adjust your treatment plan. Monitoring may involve getting a scan at one of our six vascular testing sites and reviewing results with one of our doctors via a virtual visit.

Thoracic aortic diseases we treat

Vascular surgeons at Virginia Mason Franciscan Health treat all forms of aorta disease. You may benefit from our multidisciplinary approach if you have a thoracic aortic disease, such as: 

  • Aneurysm, bulging due to a weak spot in the blood vessel wall
  • Dissection, tear in the inner lining of the aorta, which is a medical emergency
  • Rupture, tear in all layers of the aorta that is life-threatening
  • Stenosis, waxy deposits (plaques) that limit the amount of blood flow through the aorta

Multidisciplinary aortic disease services we offer

Virginia Mason Franciscan Health offers comprehensive services, including:

  • Many patients come to us after imaging for other medical conditions that show signs of thoracic aortic disease. We conduct a thorough assessment, including a CT scan and vascular testing in our accredited lab, to make an accurate diagnosis. 

    Cardiac and vascular surgeons review findings and carefully consider whether treatment is necessary. We may recommend monitoring instead of treatment for minor issues, like small aneurysms or mild stenosis. Your treatment may also involve nonsurgical therapies like lifestyle changes and medications to reduce risk factors, such as drugs for high cholesterol.

  • If a procedure is necessary, we determine which therapies and methods best meet your needs. Aneurysm treatment may involve endovascular or open surgical repair. For severe narrowing in the abdominal aorta, we may perform vascular bypass surgery

    Our cardiac and vascular surgeons work together to plan thoracic and abdominal aortic treatments. We determine whether an open or endovascular procedure is appropriate and if you need the services of one or both types of surgeons. We also consider how soon you need surgery and how to manage other health issues to lower complication risks.

  • We provide post-procedure follow-up care to ensure your recovery stays on track. Even if you have not had a procedure, we continue caring for you. We typically recommend annual visits for people with mild aortic disease or who have fully recovered from a procedure. Our doctors work with you to develop a follow-up plan that helps you feel your best.

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Our specialists care for patients across the Puget Sound area and beyond.