Death of soccer journalist Grant Wahl: U-M health experts available to comment

December 14, 2022
Written By:
Noah Fromson, 216-509-8604, fromsonn@umich.edu
Contact:
  • umichnews@umich.edu
Two candles burning. Image credit: Julian Kendziora, Pexels.com

EXPERTS ADVISORY

The wife of American soccer journalist Grant Wahl recently shared that he died due to an undetected ascending aortic aneurysm while covering the World Cup in Qatar.

University of Michigan Health Frankel Cardiovascular Center has experts available in the condition who can speak in-depth about how it occurs, prognosis, treatment, etc. The U-M Health Frankel CVC has a Comprehensive Aortic Program that is among the largest in the U.S. offering care of patients with complex aortic diseases.

Marion Hoffmann Bowman
Marion Hofmann Bowman

Marion Hofmann Bowman is a clinical associate professor of cardiology and co-director of the MiAorta Network at University of Michigan Health, Michigan Medicine.

“It is always very sad to see patients dying from aortic dissection, and we need a better understanding on how to identify patients at risk, since elective aortic surgery of aneurysms reduces the risk for dissections,” she said. “Aortic dissection is a common cause of sudden cardiac death and can happen in people who are not aware of being at risk.

“Approximately 7% of aortic dissection in patients aged 50-65 have the genetic finding of an abnormal FBN-1 gene that defines Marfan syndrome, but were not previously diagnosed with Marfan syndrome, according to research by the University of Michigan. I wonder if the reported mild respiratory illness in Mr. Wahl contributed to his aortic dissection. We have found that acute type A aortic dissections occur more frequently during winter months and are associated with regional flu activity.”

Gorav Ailawadi
Gorav Ailawadi

Gorav Ailawadi is director of the U-M Health Frankel Cardiovascular Center and the Helen F. and Marvin M. Kirsh Professor and Chair of Cardiac Surgery.

“The majority of aortic aneurysms are asymptomatic, causing no pain or difficulty breathing until they dissect. When they dissect, that is when they become an emergency,” he said. “With dissection, less than half of patients survive within 24 hours, and many may not make it to the hospital in time. The best approach is to repair the aneurysm surgically before it dissects.

“Screening through echocardiogram or a CT scan are important tools to look for the condition. If you have a first-degree relative who has an aortic aneurysm, you should talk to your doctor about getting screened. The University of Michigan MI-AORTA program has one of the largest experiences in caring for patients with aortic aneurysms in the country. In addition, we have many research labs that study why they occur.”