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New stent developed for abdominal aortic aneurysms

April 27, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
An aneurysm can strike with virtually no symptoms or pain. And if it ruptures, it can be deadly, killing nine out of 10 people who develop it. But now, a surgeon has developed a device to help save people with this condition who've run out of options.

In the last five years, Bill Cardwell has encountered more challenges than he could ever face on the golf course. First, serious heart problems. Then a ticking time bomb bulging in his belly that could burst at any time.

An abdominal aortic aneurysm is caused by a weakening in the lining of the body's main artery that carries blood from the heart to the rest of the body. If this kind of aneurysm ruptures, the risk of death is up to 90 percent.

Bill needed help fast. But his heart condition and the location of the aneurysm meant he could not have surgery or get a traditional endograft to repair the problem.

"If we put a standard endograft in we would have covered his kidney arteries so he would have no blood flow to his kidneys and he would lose his kidneys," said Dr. Joseph Ricotta, director of vascular surgery at Emory University School of Medicine. "Essentially there's really no other option."

So Ricotta developed a lifesaving endovascular graft customized to fit a patient's anatomy.

Small windows in the fenestrated stent graft allow major vessels to connect to the repaired aneurysm, allowing normal blood flow to the kidneys and other vital organs.

Five months after his procedure, Bill is back on the green with a new appreciation for life and golf.

Ricotta's graft can be used in emergency situations for patients with complex aneurysms that have ruptured or may be about to rupture. Some of the major risk factors of these potentially deadly aneurysms are smoking and high blood pressure.