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Minimally invasive procedure OK for wide range of aorta problems, study shows

Revolution in progress:
U-M study shows a wide range of problems in body's largest artery can be treated with a minimally invasive procedure

Tens of thousands of Americans live with a ticking time bomb in their chests. Now, a new University of Michigan study demonstrates that many of them may not need surgery in order to defuse it.

Instead, the research shows, a minimally-invasive procedure can repair a wide range of problems in the upper part of the aorta, the giant blood vessel leading out of the heart. In this region, called the thoracic aorta, the intense force of blood pulsing out of the heart can rip the aorta's walls apart or cause them to balloon outward, eventually leading to a rupture that brings almost certain death.

For decades, patients have had a choice between open-chest surgery and waiting for the "time bomb" to explode. Some haven't had a choice, because their age or health makes them too high-risk for surgery. More than 15,000 Americans die each year from ruptured thoracic aortic aneurysms, dissections and other problems.

But in recent years, a few physicians at U-M and elsewhere have tried an experimental procedure called endovascular thoracic aortic repair, or ETAR, to shore up the aorta without surgery. They've used devices called stent-grafts that are inserted by snaking a long tube up into the aorta from a small incision in the leg or belly. Only in the last year has the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the first device designed for this purpose, paving the way for more hospitals to offer it.

Earlier this week, in a presentation at the Society of Thoracic Surgeons meeting, a multi-specialty U-M Cardiovascular Center team gave data from 73 patients who had ETAR at U-M over the last 12 years. Three-quarters of them were considered too high-risk to have surgery. The average survival was nearly four years, and almost half of the patients are still alive today and have not needed addition
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Contact: Kara Gavin
kegavin@umich.edu
734-764-2220
University of Michigan Health System
2-Feb-2006


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