My Dad and I were both born with Bicuspid Aortic Valves. Mine was discovered when I was 4 years old...Interestling, my Dad's wasn't discovered until he was in his late 50's (probably because the technology wasn't available when he was born). I am now 36 years old and my Dad is 70. We both have had regular checkups every 5 years with out Cardiologists. Approx 2 years ago (2008), an Aneurysm of my ascending thoracic aorta was discovered measuring 4.5. I was told to come back every year instead of every 5 years, but other than that I was Not put on any blood pressure medication at that point. The Dr did not seem to concerned about it and so neither was I. I also had not done any research on it so knew very little about aneurysms at that point. Sometime in 2009, my wife kept urging me to get a second opinion about the condition of my heart in general. I finally did agreeing that it's not good to put all your eggs in one basket (i.e. trust in one doctor). My Dad has been a long time patient of Mayo Clinic and my wife was urging me to go there, so I did in April of 2010 (and had all my records transferred down there) They were extremely thorough with testing (echo, ekg, chest x-ray, and cat scan). After after their analysis they stated my aneurysm was at 4.9 (which scared the living daylights out of me) since I assumed it had grown 0.4 in a year, but after careful comparison between the previous echos and the current one, the cardiologists determined there had been no growth. Differences in how they measure was the explanation given for the discrepancy. At my request, I went back again in July since I had a great deal of anxiety after my trip to Mayo in April. They are very good, but put the fear in me as to the seriousness of it all. There was no change in July either, so we are continuing to watch and wait at this point. They did put me on a low dose of blood pressure medication, advised me to lose some weight and not lift anything over 40 lbs. My father also had an aneurysm discovered in the past year or so measuring at 4.7. I belive the consensus at this point is that if it rises to 5.0 we'll go ahead with the surgery since there would be no reason to wait any longer at that point. Mayo takes a more conservative approch to intervention than some other places. Now my next checkup will be in Feb (I am going every 6 months).
When I do have my surgery it will also involve replacing the valve. I have been really torn between what type of valve I should eventually go with. I hate the idea of blood thinners with the mechanical valve, but I also hate the idea of having to get a tissue valve replaced 10 years afterward too (possibly sooner). I've also been researching the On-X Prosthetic Valve, which is supposed to be the best of both worlds...Strong durable carbon construction but also doesn't form blood clots.
I agree with others though that this weighs heavily on one's mind. I pretty much think about it every day...I don't have the anxiety that I did back in May, but it is definitely on my mind a lot. I feel it has made me more cranky with my family, which is unfortunate I know. I keep telling myself that advances in technology have made this surgery so much safer now and that I have nothing to worry about.
One of the biggest concerns I've had though is regarding Kidney problems post surgery. I have read in a few places that there is a higher risk of renal kidney failure after thoracic ascending aortic surgery. Has anyone heard of this or have any thoughts/insight into that claim ?