Aorta—There's an app for that



To operate or not to operate: that is the question cardiac surgeons and cardiologists who treat patients suffering from an aortic aneurysm—an abnormal, potentially fatal dilation of the aorta—often ask.

But now, there's Aorta, a new free app that guides specialists in their decision to replace the artery by providing recommendations based on the patient's profile and cutting-edge scientific data. Developed at the Montréal Heart Institute by Dr. Ismail El-Hamamsy and two of his cardiac surgeon colleagues, Dr. Yoan Lamarche and Dr. Philippe Demers, a beta version of the tool was released in November 2014. The link was sent out to members of the medical community, and the app generated over 4,000 clicks and 1,300 Apple and Android downloads.

Based on the person's answers, the application will make suitable recommendations on the surgical indication.

The idea to help physicians better understand the genetic and hereditary aspects of aortic aneurysms came to Dr. El-Hamamsy after he began following some 200 families at the Institute's congenital aortopathies clinic, which he founded in 2012. In fact, the discovery of several genes involved in the pathology changed the surgical guidelines.

Until recently, patients were operated when the dilation of the aorta reached 5 cm. Today, specialists consider a patient's genetic and family history before making the decision to perform surgery. The Aorta app therefore involves a series of short, key questions for the patient. Based on the person's answers, the application will make suitable recommendations on the surgical indication by considering the specificities of the aortic aneurysm treatment options set out by leading medical organizations.

The tool constitutes an important complement to clinical expertise and a further step towards personalized medicine.