Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

A Procedure with Promise Experimental Treatment at Allegheny General Repairs Abdominal Aortic Aneurysms

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

A Procedure with Promise Experimental Treatment at Allegheny General Repairs Abdominal Aortic Aneurysms

Article excerpt

On-again, off-again stomach pain had bothered home remodeler Jerome Holiday for more than a year, but in January, it worsened to the point of slowing him down.

"If I was up on a ladder, I would have to come down," the 59- year-old North Side resident said. "If I was doing something strenuous, I would have to stop."

Mr. Holiday had a potentially fatal abdominal aortic aneurysm, which doctors at Allegheny General Hospital repaired with an experimental procedure that could prove more effective and patient- friendly than the one that's standard now.

Allegheny General is one of about 30 sites in the United States, Canada and Europe taking part in a clinical trial of the new technology, developed by California-based Endologix Inc. Mr. Holiday, who had the procedure March 4, was the first to undergo the procedure in Pittsburgh.

Satish Muluk, chief of vascular surgery at AGH and lead investigator of the Pittsburgh study, said the procedure could be revolutionary.

An abdominal aortic aneurysm -- a leading cause of death among older patients, the doctor said -- is a ballooning of the body's main artery near the kidneys. Because of the expansion, the artery wall becomes so thin that it ruptures, causing internal bleeding. At that point, the patient faces long odds.

"We estimate the mortality is around 80 percent," Dr. Muluk said, noting many patients have no symptoms before an aneurysm bursts.

Emphysema, genetics, high cholesterol and blood pressure, obesity and smoking are among the factors believed to contribute to aneurysms, according to the National Library of Medicine. Men are more prone than women.

However, the problem can be detected ahead of time with an ultrasound, which is part of the covered package of care for new Medicare enrollees. The Medicare years are when the aneurysms are most likely to develop, Dr. Muluk said.

Dr. Muluk said Allegheny General repairs about 150 of the aneurysms annually. The standard treatment, developed in the late 1990s, is minimally invasive endovascular surgery in which a stent, shaped like an inverted Y, is inserted to bypass the damaged section of aorta. …

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