Emil Almon believes the difference
between life and death for him was a device no longer than a
pencil--and the skilled hands of a UC surgeon.
Almon, who had suffered a stroke and had
kidney problems, recently became the first person in the Tristate to
undergo minimally invasive vascular surgery to repair a thoracic aortic
aneurysm using the GORE TAG Thoracic Endoprosthesis, the only
FDA-approved device of its kind.
"If I had put off this surgery, my
aneurysm would have exploded and I wouldn't be here today," says
Almon."I feel blessed to be alive."
Aortic aneurysms develop when a section
of the aorta--the largest artery in the body--becomes weak and begins
to bulge. As the bulge grows, so does the risk that it will rupture and
cause massive internal bleeding and near-instant death.
Thoracic aortic aneurysms occur in the section of the aorta that travels through the chest.
The GORE TAG device, which is inserted using a catheter through a small incision in the patient's groin, "relines" the aorta.
The procedure, which eliminates the need
for a major chest incision, offers hope to patients who are not good
candidates for traditional "open" surgery because of advanced vascular
disease and other health complications.
"Many patients who suffer from thoracic
aortic aneurysms also have serious health problems that make open
surgery too risky," says Joseph Giglia, MD, interim director of UC's
division of vascular surgery. "Endovascular (minimally invasive) repair
is very promising because it gives those high-risk patients a better
chance for survival."
The procedure requires only a few small
incisions in the groin. Guided by live X-ray images and a video screen,
Dr. Giglia locates the aneurysm and threads the catheter through blood
vessels to deploy the tube-shaped device.
Once in place, the device supports the
weakened vessel walls and allows blood to continue flowing through the
aorta without putting pressure on the aneurysm. Without a blood supply,
the aneurysm is less likely to rupture and will begin to shrink over
Repairing the diseased artery from inside
the body, says Dr. Giglia, minimizes the complications associated with
open surgery and gives more patients an option for survival. The
procedure also takes a quarter of the time required for open
surgery--typically one to three hours--and minimizes blood loss.