Heart Disease and Marfan Syndrome
How Is Marfan Syndrome Treated? continued...
The decision to perform surgery is based on the size of the aorta, expected normal size of the aorta, rate of aortic growth, age, height, gender, and family history of aortic dissection. Surgery involves replacing the dilated portion of the aorta with a graft, a piece of man-made material that is inserted to replace the damaged or weak area of the blood vessel.
A leaky aortic or mitral valve (the valve that controls the flow of blood between the two left chambers of the heart) can damage the left ventricle (the lower chamber of the heart that is the main pumping chamber) or cause heart failure. In these cases, surgery to replace or repair the affected valve is necessary. If surgery is performed early, before the valves are damaged, the aortic or mitral valve may be repaired and preserved. If the valves are damaged, they may need to be replaced.
If surgery is needed, you should consult with a surgeon who is experienced in surgery for Marfan syndrome. People who have surgery for Marfan syndrome still require life-long follow-up care to prevent future complications associated with the disease.
How Does Marfan Sydrome Affect Lifestyle Choices?
- Activity. Most people with Marfan syndrome can participate in certain types of physical and/or recreational activities. Those with dilation of the aorta will be asked to avoid high intensity team sports, contact sports, and isometric exercises (such as weight lifting). Ask your cardiologist about activity guidelines for you.
- Pregnancy. Genetic counseling should be performed prior to pregnancy because Marfan syndrome is an inherited condition. Pregnant women with Marfan syndrome are also considered high-risk cases. If the aorta is normal size, the risk for dissection is lower, but not absent. Those with even slight enlargement are at higher risk and the stress of pregnancy may cause more rapid dilation. Careful follow-up, with frequent blood pressure checks and monthly echocardiograms is required during pregnancy. If there is rapid enlargement or aortic regurgitation, bed rest may be required. Your doctor will discuss with you the best method of delivery with you.
- Endocarditis prevention. People with Marfan syndrome who have heart or valve involvement or who have had heart surgery are at increased risk for bacterial endocarditis. This is an infection of the heart valves or tissue which occurs when bacteria enters the blood stream. To prevent this, antibiotics may be needed prior to dental or surgical procedures. Ask your doctor whether you need antibiotics, and if so, how much and what kind should be taken. A wallet card may be obtained from the American Heart Association with specific antibiotic guidelines.
- Emotional considerations. Learning you have Marfan syndrome may cause you to feel angry, frightened or sad. You may need to make changes in your lifestyle and adjust to having careful medical follow-up the rest of your life. You may have financial concerns. You also need to consider the risk to your future children. The National Marfan Foundation can provide support.