Abdominal aortic aneurysm surgeries getting easier

February 25, 2011 11:57:35 AM PST
It's a "silent killer" responsible for thousands of deaths every year in this country.

For years, doctors treated abdominal aortic aneurysms with major surgery, requiring a long hospital stay and extensive recovery time. But now a new device is changing that.

Joe M. Walleck, 75, found out several months ago he needed surgery to fix a dangerous bulge in his body's main artery, the abdominal aorta. The Edna native says his doctor told him about a new procedure to fix the problem without major surgery.

"He said if it was his mama or daddy, he'd tell them to have it done," Walleck said.

Walleck was referred to Dr. Zvonimir Krajcer at the Texas Heart Institute at St Luke's. Dr. Krajcer told him about a revolutionary procedure for abdominal aortic aneurysms called the Endurant Stent Graft System. The procedure previously had to be done surgically, but this time, it is much less invasive.

"We can treat patients with this approach and this device under local anesthesia. It means just with numbing medications in the groin area, without making any significant incisions," Dr. Krajcer said.

The stent graft is implanted using a thin, flexible tube. At the site of the aneurysm, the stent is expanded within the aorta, creating a new path for blood flow and reducing risk of rupture.

"Patients love it because there is no pain involved with it, the recovery is very short and they can return to their normal lifestyle the next day after the procedure," Dr. Krajcer said.

"I was up and walking in three days, you know. No pain at all," Walleck said.

Dr. Krajcer says the device will soon turn this once-complicated surgery into an outpatient procedure.

"If we can identify those patients early enough and treat them with less invasive approach, such as stent graft procedure rather than surgery, we can save a lot of lives," he said.

Dr. Krajcer is just the second cardiologist in the country to offer the new device, which was FDA approved in December.