A team of investigators has developed an innovative blood test that may provide a faster, simpler way for emergency room doctors and others to diagnose and monitor potentially deadly aortic aneurysms and aortic dissections (a tear in the wall of the aorta) for which early diagnosis is critical for survival. The aorta is the large artery that carries blood away from the heart. Aortic aneurysms and dissections, which often have symptoms similar to a heart attack, cause more than 10,000 deaths annually in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control. Certain types of dissections (Type A), if left untreated, kill 33% of patients within the first 24 hours, and 50% of patients within 48 hours, according to research by the International Registry of Acute Aortic Dissections (IRAD).
The research from Shriners Hospital for Children and Oregon Health & Science University, in Portland, and Baylor College of Medicine and the Texas Heart Institute in Houston, which was published online today by Circulation Research, found that high blood levels of fibrillin-1, a protein essential to the make-up of the body’s connective tissue and blood vessels, are about twice as common in people with thoracic aortic aneurysm than in people with other types of aortic aneurysms. The high fibrillin-1 levels most likely are caused by damage to connective tissue or blood vessels. The researchers also found that high levels of fibrillin-1 fragments are more likely to be associated with aortic dissection, the life-threatening tear in the aorta. These new findings are potentially revolutionary because they mean that fibrillin-1 could someday be used in a blood test to diagnose aortic aneurysm and dissection. Currently, the diagnosis is made through medical imaging, such as echocardiography, MRI, and CT scanning.
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