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I have a thoracic aortic aneurysm. Can I continue my firefighting career?

I was recently diagnosed with a thoracic aortic aneurysm. It is at a 4.7 cm and I was told at 5.0 cm is when something has to be done about it. In 2006 I first learned that I had a aneurysm and at that time it was a 4.6 cm. I have been a firefighter / EMT for about 14 years now and have never had any issues with this condition until my cardiologist that I had been seeing retired and I got this new cardiologist that has told me that I have to find a different career and no stressful environments and not to lift anything over 40 lbs. The new cardiologist also said that I was too young to do surgery now and that the risk verses reward wouldn't be worth it. I am so stressed now and a lot more than when I was working so now I have been filing for social security disability and not able to work anymore. If you can please give me some advice on what to do or is this something that I just have to deal with? Thanks!!

submitted by  Melvin from Fort Worth, Texas on 11/08/2013


by Texas Heart Institute cardiovascular surgeon, Scott A. LeMaire, MD    

Scott A. LeMaire, MDIn terms of restrictions on activity, we agree with the 2010 multidisciplinary guidelines for managing patients with thoracic aortic disease [Hiratzka et al. Circulation 2010], which recommend "avoidance of strenuous lifting, pushing, or straining" to reduce the risk of aortic dissection. Although it is difficult to specify an exact upper limit of weight that can be lifted safely, we advise against lifting anything beyond what a given individual can lift comfortably without needing to strain and "bear down." Because aortic repair is warranted at diameters below 5.0 cm in some circumstances, we would recommend a complete evaluation by a cardiothoracic surgeon who specializes in aortic surgery.     

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Updated November 2013
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