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December 2005 Issue

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UC Surgeon First in Tristate to Repair Aneurysm Using 'Relining" Device

Published December 2005

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 time.

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.

"Repairing an aneurysm without a major chest incision," says Dr. Giglia, "translates to less risk for infection, a shorter hospital stay and faster recovery time."

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