Repairing Aortic Aneurysms

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. For Nick Rauccio, the first warning came with the swing of a golf club.

"Back pain, an unusual area in my back, and it wasn't muscle," Rauccio told Ivanhoe." You can tell when your muscles are hurting."

Doctors told him he had an aortic aneurysm, a dangerous bulge in the large artery that pumps blood from the heart to the rest of the body.

"At five or six centimeters, it could burst, and I would bleed to death in less than three minutes," Rauccio said. "I was very concerned … to have that time bomb ticking."

William Jordan, M.D., a vascular surgeon at the University of Alabama in Birmingham, is leading a trend toward less invasive aneurysm repair using a new generation of aortic stents. He threads the compressed stent through the groin into the abdomen. Then, the stent expands inside the aorta.

"Before, when we would open a patient, [we would] take sutures, stitches and sew an artery into place," Dr. Jordan told Ivanhoe. "Now, we take the same type of graft material, and instead of sewing it in place, we fix it in place with a stent or metal springs."

Traditionally, treatment meant major, open surgery, temporarily moving organs to repair the aorta. Patients faced five to seven days in the hospital and six weeks of recovery. With the newer approach, patients are out of the hospital within two days and active again after two weeks.

The less invasive stent procedure also means a lower risk of complications.

"I checked into a hospital on a Tuesday morning," Rauccio said. "Ten o'clock Wednesday night, I was watching the 10 o'clock news in my easy chair in my living room."

Now, eight weeks later, Rauccio's back at the top of his game.

This new procedure requires more follow-up visits than traditional surgery. It is covered by some insurance carriers as an alternative to major surgery.


William Jordan, MD
(205) 934-2006

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