Early detection and repair of an aorta aneurysm may have saved
Jeff Green’s life, according to Dr. Michael Kaplan, senior medical correspondent for ESPN.
In detailing the condition Green is facing, Kaplan stressed that rupture of the aorta, the largest blood vessel in the body, could have been catastrophic. He stressed that surgery is still a major procedure, but said that Green could indeed resume his basketball career down the road if all goes well.
“An aortic aneurysm is a condition where the abdominal aorta, which is the largest blood vessel in the body, has a dilation -- meaning the wall of the blood vessel thins and then balloons out,” said Kaplan. “It’s more typical in older individuals with some sort of blood vessel disease, but we see it occasionally with people as young as Jeff, usually from other conditions.”
Kaplan said that the condition is either congenital, or the result of another disease process like Marfan's syndrome.
Kaplan said there’s two types of surgery Green could undergo, including a full open-chest procedure, or a less-invasive synthetic graft replacement of the dilated segment. Either way, he cautions, it’s a big deal.
“Regardless of technique, surgery is a major undertaking with long recovery and significant potential complications,” he said.
As for Green’s long-term ability to return to the basketball court, Kaplan noted that will all depend on his post-surgery condition and rehabilitation.
Kaplan did note that Green is fortunate to have his procedure picked up by a world-renowned institution in the Cleveland Clinic, dubbing it the mecca of cardiac procedures.
One thing Kaplan did stress was the dissimilarity between this diagnosis and the one that led to the death of former Celtics star Reggie Lewis (hypertrophic cardiomyopathy).
“Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is the most frequent reason for which we see young athletes go down and, occasionally, die on the court,” said Kaplan. “That’s a condition that is post-viral, where the person has a virus and the heart wall muscles are affected by it due to a thickening. It’s a different situation than [what Green is facing].”
A more apt comparison for Green would be veteran NBA big man Ronny Turiaf's experience.
An enlarged aortic root was discovered by the Los Angeles Lakers in a physical exam four weeks after drafting Turiaf in June 2005, and he underwent open-heart surgery July 26 of that year to repair the aortic root and preserve his aortic valve, The Associated Press reported.
The contract Turiaf had signed with the Lakers was voided, but the team paid for the surgery and retained his rights. He was able to recover, re-sign with the Lakers and make his NBA debut later in the ’05-06 season.
Turiaf's condition was not the same as that of Green, who's already been ruled out for the season, but could provide Green with a positive example as he begins the recovery process.