Mar 21, 2014 8:00 AM

Author: The Office of Public Affairs

You’ve heard of a brain aneurysm, but did you know you could also develop an abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA)? Just like other aneurysms, if an AAA were to rupture, it could cause life-threatening bleeding. But there are options available to prevent the worse case scenario and University of Utah surgeons are the first in the region to use a new technology to repair these silent killers.

So, what exactly is an abdominal aortic aneurysm? It’s an enlarged area in the lower part of your aorta. The aorta, the body’s main supplier of blood, is about the thickness of a garden hose and runs from your heart through the center of your chest and abdomen.

Preventative surgery is always the best option. Your physician can detect an AAA through an ultrasound. Once it is found, doctors can closely monitor it and schedule a surgery, which traditionally would require a large incision down the middle of the abdomen and a hospital stay of at least a week or longer. The alternative is emergency surgery to repair a ruptured aorta, which can be risky.

University of Utah Health Care vascular surgeon Michelle Mueller, MD, is the first physician in Utah to utilize a new technology called fenestrated endograft, that repairs AAA and cuts a patient’s hospital stay by more than half.

“Patients have a new solution to fix an abdominal aortic aneurysm,” says Michelle Mueller, M.D. “Using a fenestrated endograft is great because it reduces the risk of an aorta rupturing and emergency surgery.”

With the new fenestrated graft, a vascular surgeon is able to repair the aneurysm through two tiny incisions in the groin. This procedure takes approximately 3-4 hours and allows patients to go home within one or two days after the procedure. More importantly, most patients are able to return to normal activity in about two weeks.

Although the exact cause of abdominal aortic aneurysms is unknown, a number of factors may play a role, including:

  • Tobacco use: cigarette smoking and other forms of tobacco use appear to increase your risk of aortic aneurysms.
  • Hardening of the arteries: this occurs when fat and other substances build up on the lining of a blood vessel.
  • Infection in the aorta: in rare cases, AAA may be caused by an infection or inflammation that weakens a section of the aortic wall.

heart health cardiothoracic surgery

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