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New Graft Technique Provides Option for Thoracic Aneurysm Repair

Heart surgeons and interventional radiologists at The University of Kansas Hospital now perform a new graft technique to repair a thoracic aortic aneurysm (TAA). The hospital’s heart team was the first in the region to complete this procedure, as well as the first to perform an abdominal aneurysm stent graft five years ago.

This innovative catheter-based technique is a major advancement for patients suffering from a TAA. It also enables physicians to treat many patients with TAA who are not good candidates for surgery because of lung problems or co-morbidities.

While traditional TAA surgery involves a large incision that runs laterally from the patient’s breastbone to spine, the new procedure only requires a small incision in the patient’s thigh for threading the catheter. Physicians guide the graft through the artery into the chest, then place it at the precise location covering the aneurysm.

Other benefits include:

  • The entire procedure usually takes about one hour, compared to four to six hours for the traditional open-heart aneurysm repair.
  • Most patients go home from the hospital the next day, compared to a hospital stay of a week to 10 days. They do not require the intensive care nursing that is standard with TAA surgery.
  • Patients can resume normal activities in a week or two, compared to a recovery of four to six weeks following surgery.
  • Blood loss is cut by 80 percent compared to the traditional TAA surgery, and patients typically have fewer post-operative complications.
  • The mortality rate of the TAA graft method is one-third the rate of surgery.

The graft is made of Nitinol, an alloy that conforms to the shape of the artery. This is the only device of its type approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

The team at The University of Kansas Hospital is uniquely qualified to provide this procedure. It is performed by a heart surgeon who has extensive experience treating TAA open-heart cases, rather than by a vascular surgeon. In addition, the interventional radiologist takes part in the procedure, so the patient doesn’t need to make a separate visit for staging.