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Sharp Health News

Procedure for aortic aneurysm offers rapid recovery

Feb. 11, 2021

Stethoscope on electrocardiogram

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly 10,000 deaths were caused by aortic aneurysms in 2018.

An aortic aneurysm is a weakened or bulging area on the wall of the aorta — the main artery that carries blood away from the heart to the rest of the body. Aortic aneurysms may occur either in the chest (thoracic aneurysm) or anywhere along the aorta such as in the abdomen (abdominal aortic aneurysm).

In an abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA), pressure from inside the artery increases the risk that the aorta will rupture and lead to internal bleeding - and possibly death - if not treated immediately. Patients most at risk are those over age 65 with a history of smoking, lung disease or a family history of aortic aneurysms.

For the 1 in 5 AAA patients who are not considered appropriate candidates for conventional treatment, a minimally invasive procedure called fenestrated endograft implantation is available.

Dr. Scott Musicant, a vascular surgeon affiliated with Sharp Grossmont Hospital, performs this procedure for this complex condition.

"We are very fortunate to have a dedicated endovascular team with an incredible amount of experience here at Sharp Grossmont," says Dr. Musicant. "This allows us to perform truly state-of-the-art techniques. Just a couple of years ago, this would have required transferring patients to another part of the country for their care."

Specially designed stents made to fit each patient
This custom-made stent is used in aortic aneurysm repair with the help of 3D computer models generated from a patient's spiral CT scan.

When an aortic aneurysm involves arteries that branch off toward the kidneys, conventional treatment - such as open surgery - may not be ideal. Fenestrated stent grafts, however, are custom-made to the precise size of each patient's aorta to accommodate branched arteries and maintain kidney circulation.

Patients treated with fenestrated endografts typically spend just 1 day in the hospital and 1 week recovering, compared to 7 to 10 days in the hospital and 3 to 6 months of recovery with open surgery. There is a decreased risk of stroke, paraplegia, heart attack and death with this less-invasive approach.

Doctors require patients to undergo long-term surveillance with periodic CT scans to detect and treat problems before they become life-threatening.

With this type of follow-up care as an added bonus, this valuable technology is a win-win for vascular patients who now have access to this advanced procedure in their own backyards.

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