January 11, 2013

This image shows the new graft technique for aortic aneurysms.Arteries are blood vessels that carry oxygen-rich blood to your body. They have thick walls to withstand normal blood pressure. However, certain medical problems, genetic conditions and trauma can damage or injure artery walls. The force of blood pushing against the weakened or injured walls can cause an aneurysm or a balloon-like bulge. As the aneurysm grows there is a greater risk of rupture, which can lead to severe hemorrhage, and other complications, including sudden death.

Aortic aneurysms occur most commonly in individuals above 50 years old and are more common among men and smokers. They tend to cause no symptoms, although occasionally they cause pain in the abdomen, chest and back (due to pressure on surrounding tissues or rupture) or in the legs (due to reduced blood flow).

Shadi Abu-Halimah, MD, a vascular surgeon at the CAMC Vascular Center of Excellence, is using a newly developed special endovascular graft to treat complex aneurysms occurring in the chest area and/ or stomach areas of the aorta.

Traditionally to treat aneurysms in these areas an open surgery is required with more pain and longer hospital stay. Dr. Abu- Halimah is using a fenestrated/branched graft that is deployed using minimally-invasive transcatheters. This graft is like a stent with holes that align with the arteries branching off from the aorta.

The stent or graft is inserted inside the affected area of the aorta. This shields the dangerously weak section from the high-pressured flow of blood.

"This is a huge breakthrough for patients," said Dr. Abu-Halimah. "Until recently, major chest and abdominal surgery was necessary to treat certain thoracic and abdominal aortic aneurysms.

"Patients used to have to go out of state to have this procedure or have an open surgical procedure. Some are high risk for surgery and this is a safer option."

Dr. Abu-Halimah is participating in a national study on the effectiveness of the new grafts.

The minimally-invasive, endovascular procedure can be carried out with just two small cuts in the groin to access the arteries; patients can leave the hospital within a day or two afterward.

For more information on this and other vascular procedures call the CAMC Vascular Center of Excellence at (304) 388-8199.

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