By Dennis Douda, WCCO-TV
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Millions of people walk around with a potential time bomb inside and most do not know it. Medtronic now has a new device on the market to fight the so-called Silent Killer, Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm or AAA.
An aortic aneurysm is a bulge in the main artery taking blood to all of the blood vessels. Forty-thousand to 50,000 Americans have surgery each year to repair it.
“It affects about 8 to 9 percent of adult men in this country, about 2 percent of adult women,” said vascular surgeon Steven Santilli at the University of Minnesota Medical Center.
While doctors like to keep an eye on aortas with aneurysms, most will not require treatment. When the risk of the artery bursting becomes too high, then repair becomes necessary.
When an aneurysm ruptures, the patient is lucky to even make it to the emergency room. Santilli says it is the 13th leading cause of death in the United States, accounting for 15,000 fatalities a year.
Sometimes the fix means major, open-abdomen surgery, which is rather risky.
“Medicare data from the mid-2000s showed an operative mortality rate of 5 to 8 percent,” Santilli said.
A minimally invasive procedure drops that risk to less than 1 percent.
In December, the FDA granted approval for the Endurant AAA Stent Graft System by Medtronic. Santilli is already a fan of it.
“It’s a much improved way to treat patients.” he said. “There’s no other way to phrase it.”
Picture the stent as a high-tech wire tube, lined with a special fabric that fits inside the artery like a new pipeline.
“The reason we’re able to treat about 80 percent of patients are that the devices are designed in components,” Santilli said. “So, we can put them together like an erector set to tailor it to fit the patient.”
The stent is inserted by catheter through groin arteries at the top of the legs. They are positioned with the aid of fluoroscopic x-rays, and then secured by inflating and removing tiny balloons. Patients generally leave the hospital just one to two days after surgery.
Santilli says the new system will allow more people to avoid major invasive surgery and let some people to be treated who otherwise would have been considered too frail for surgery.