Atlanta, Ga. (February 19, 2013) – A new surgery at Piedmont Heart Institute may help many Americans who suffer from abdominal aortic aneurysms, a bulge in the main blood vessel that runs through the stomach and carries blood from the heart to the rest of the body. It is estimated that 1.7 million people have this condition and more than 50,000 repairs are performed annually in the United States.
The condition, which can be life-threatening if the aneurysms burst and cause severe internal bleeding, is relatively common in men and those aged 65 and over. Despite this, approximately half of those with abdominal aortic aneurysms may not be candidates for traditional repairs.
“Until now, repairing complex or ruptured abdominal aneurysms was risky,” said Eyal Ben-Arie, M.D., a vascular surgeon with Piedmont Heart who has a particular interest in aneurysm repair. “With this new minimally-invasive procedure, a fenestrated aortic stent-graft is used to reinforce openings and maintain blood flow to vessels that lead to other organs in the body.”
Dr. Ben-Arie performed this new procedure, called a fenestrated aortic endograft, for the first time at Piedmont Atlanta Hospital on February 6, 2013. Currently, the procedure is only available at Piedmont Heart and Emory University in Georgia and was one of the first performed in the state.
Instead of making a large incision in the stomach, doctors performing a fenestrated aortic endograft make a small cut near each hip. A small, fabric tube called a graft is inserted into the arteries and positioned in the appropriate blood vessel. Once in place, the graft seals off the aneurysm and makes a new path through which the blood flows.
“Patients who get this new procedure may go home after a very short hospital stay, generally do not require an ICU stay or a transfusion, and experience minimal pain after surgery,” said Dr. Ben-Arie.
Those at risk for developing an abdominal aortic aneurysm include those who smoke, have a family history of aortic aneurysms, have high blood pressure, high cholesterol or a plaque buildup in and on artery walls restricting blood flow (atherosclerosis). Infection and trauma also can cause abdominal aortic aneurysms, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Sometimes, those who have abdominal aortic aneurysms may not experience symptoms. Commonly reported symptoms include a pulsating feeling in the stomach, pain or tenderness in the stomach or chest and back pain. If a risk for developing an abdominal aortic aneurysm is suspected, contact a primary care doctor.
Abdominal aortic aneurysms, when discovered at a small size, do not pose an immediate health risk; however, over time, the blood vessel walls can weaken and become thinner, causing the aneurysm to rupture and possibly leading to severe internal bleeding and death.
For more information on abdominal aortic aneurysms and other heart conditions, visit piedmontheart.org.