NEW YORK, NY – New York City police officer, Matthew Ambrosino was on duty in Queens on November 18th, driving with his partner after having just made three drug arrests, when he suffered an aortic dissection, a rare heart condition which nearly took his life. An aortic dissection occurs when there is a tear in the inner layer of the aorta, the major artery carrying blood out of the heart, which may result in aortic rupture or decreased blood flow to the organs. The condition, which is often seen in older men and occurs in only about two out of every 10,000 people, is often fatal.
The 30 year old narcotics investigator suddenly felt severe, crushing chest pain and muscle contractions but was able to safely pull over just as he began feeling paralyzed. After some convincing that he needed immediate medical attention, Mr. Ambrosino’s partner drove him to a Queens hospital, which admitted him but couldn’t treat his condition. He was immediately transferred to Lenox Hill Hospital via an ambulance and taken straight to the operating room for an emergency four hour surgery. The paramedics feared he might not survive the transfer.
During the procedure, Derek Brinster, MD, Director of Aortic Surgery at Lenox Hill Hospital, replaced Mr. Ambrosino’s aorta, repaired a part of his heart valve and reconnected the arteries in which there was a tear in blood vessels up to his head. According to Dr. Brinster, Mr. Ambrosino’s case was unusual as he exhibited no factors that would put him at risk for an aortic dissection: he is young, had no prior heart problems or connective tissue disorders and lacks a family history of the condition.
An aortic dissection is a life threatening condition and if not treated within 24 to 48 hours, it’s lethal to approximately 50 to 60% of its victims. Furthermore, there is typically a 25% chance of dying even after successful surgery, which is due to the dissection that continues throughout the body and also due to the high risk nature of the surgery.
“The successful outcome of Matthew’s case can be attributed to the rapid transfer, the quick and accurate diagnosis, as well as to the extensive experience of Lenox Hill Hospital’s cardiac team in the treatment of complex aortic conditions,” said Dr. Brinster.
Mr. Ambrosino still has a dissection in another part of his aorta which will have to heal on its own. To properly heal, he has to keep his blood pressure down and avoid stress, so his aorta can reform into a more normal appearance. Unfortunately, this means that his career as a police officer is most likely over, but Mr. Ambrosino is just happy to be alive.
“They came out [during surgery] and explained to my friends and family that not a lot of people survive this,” said Mr. Ambrosino. “There’s a very slim chance that I would survive this and I wound up beating the odds.”
About Lenox Hill Hospital:
Lenox Hill Hospital, a member of the North Shore-LIJ Health System, is a 652-bed, fully accredited, acute care hospital located on Manhattan’s Upper East Side with a national reputation for outstanding patient care and innovative medical and surgical treatments. US News & World Report has ranked the hospital among the nation’s top 50 in Cardiology and Heart Surgery and among the top 10 hospitals in the state of New York with a total of 11 “high performing” designations for its clinical performance in Cancer, Diabetes & Endocrinology, Ear, Nose & Throat, Gastroenterology & GI Surgery, Geriatrics, Gynecology, Nephrology, Neurology & Neurosurgery, Orthopedics, Pulmonology and Urology. For more information, go to www.lenoxhillhospital.org.