Death of Richard Holbrooke Unique Teachable Moment for Aortic Aneurysm Screening
Richard Holbrooke, U.S. Special Representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan died on December 13, 2010 of complications related to a tear in his aorta. A USA Today article suggested that "Holbrooke most likely was unaware that his aorta had ballooned into an aneurysm". Holbrooke, who was 69, died several days after surgeons performed a 21 hour operation to repair a dissection (tear) in his aorta, the main artery that carries oxygenated blood from the heart to other organs in the body. Since aortic aneurysms do not cause symptoms, screening has been recommended for persons at risk of developing them, usually with ultrasound and sometimes with CT or MRI scans. Screening can detect aortic aneurysms before they rupture, when surgically repair can be performed. Screening of at risk populations has been strongly advocated by the "Society of Vascular Surgery".