New Technique Advances Aortic Disease Surgery

Michael Gorton, MD, cardiothoracic surgeon at The University of Kansas Hospital, has developed a new technique for repairing aortic arch aneurysms that greatly improves patient safety by reducing the risk of brain damage. He is the only surgeon in the region who maintains blood flow to the patient's brain while performing this type of surgical repair.

The standard approach for this complex condition uses deep hypothermic circulatory arrest to protect the brain while the surgeon repairs the aneurysm. After the brain is cooled to 14 or 15 degrees centigrade, the heart-lung bypass machine is turned off, discontinuing blood flow to the entire body, including the brain. The three arteries that branch off the aorta and the descending aorta are attached to an artificial graft. Then the heart-lung machine is restarted, replenishing blood flow to the brain.

The brain is very sensitive, however, and can tolerate circulatory arrest for only a short time before brain injury occurs. The process Dr. Gorton has developed preserves a constant supply of blood to the patient's brain. He is able to attach the three main arteries to the heart-lung machine one at a time by using a special graft. This sequential disconnection of the arteries makes the procedure safer for the patient than the standard simultaneous technique.

Dr. Gorton's aortic arch aneurysm technique takes advantage of the natural connection between blood flow to the right arm and the right side of the brain. The blood machine is attached to the right arm and blood flows backward to the right side of the brain.

Your patient will also benefit from the team approach employed at The University of Kansas Hospital. Dedicated cardiac anesthesiologists, nurse practitioners, nurses and physician assistants assure continuity of care.

An aneurysm in the aortic arch can occur in a patient of any age. This life-threatening condition usually causes no symptoms, and is often detected during a routine physical exam, as a result of X-rays taken for another condition or after a calcium CT scan. Surgery is the standard treatment for aneurysms in the ascending aorta.

You may refer a patient with this complex condition or another cardiothoracic aneurysm to the cardiothoracic surgeons at The University of Kansas Hospital. For more information or to refer a patient, please call 913-588-5862 or toll free 877-588-5862.