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New avenue for treating aortic aneurysms

MUSC Health patient becomes first in state to be treated with new flexible stent

Stents can be used to shore up weak spots in the aorta, the body's main artery, and keep them from rupturing. Image Courtesy of Gore Creative Technologies Worldwide
Helen Adams | | October 10, 2018

Retired roofer Edward Hoagland is grateful to be sitting in his recliner and watching Jerry Springer on TV with his dog Pita by his side. “He’s a little chihuahua. He’s been babied all his life. He thinks he’s a pit bull.”

Safe and comfortable at home in Seabrook, South Carolina, a suburb of Beaufort, Hoagland knows he had a close call. A doctor spotted an aortic aneurysm, a bulge in the body’s main artery that can lead to a deadly rupture, and sent Hoagland to a specialist. 
“They explained to me that when you have an aneurysm you don’t know it. But once it busts, it only takes four minutes for the heart to pump all the blood out. I’d pass out and I’d be gone.”
Dr. Veeraswamy 
Dr. Ravikumar Veeraswamy 
The specialist was at MUSC Health in nearby Charleston. Ravikumar Veeraswamy directs the Division of Vascular Surgery at the Medical University of South Carolina. When he examined Hoagland, he knew the Seabrook man would be a good candidate for a clinical trial testing a new way of doing an established procedure called endovascular aneurysm repair. It treats aneurysms that show up below the kidney’s arteries.
“A lot of people have a bend or a kink in their aorta” like Hoagland has, Veeraswamy says. “That makes it very difficult to treat using a regular stent. Those regular stents can’t handle the bend. They’re not flexible enough.”
A stent is basically a tiny patch that can shore up weak spots in the aorta. Veeraswamy said the one he used on Hoagland, called the GORE Excluder Conformable AAA Endoprosthesis, is flexible enough to take the bend and still treat the aneurysm.
Hoagland became the first person in South Carolina to be treated with the flexible stent. “It went exceptionally well and he was able to go home I think the next day and is back to fishing and doing his regular activities. He had minimal down time,” Veeraswamy says.
While his team is testing the device for both the company that makes it and the Food and Drug Administration, Veeraswamy says he doesn’t get paid for using it. “We’re here to lead the field. We’re bringing the best technology to South Carolina.”
He also encourages anyone over 65 with a history of smoking to be screened for aneurysms. “When you enter Medicare, you should get a free ultrasound of your abdomen to look for an aneurysm. A lot of people don’t know that.”
The MUSC Health Heart and Vascular Center has about 50 specialists on its team and an Aortic Center. Using the latest devices, techniques and technology is an important part of their work, Veeraswamy says. “We’re a natural place where industry likes to come and new technology comes first, because we have high volume, highly skilled technicians and high-class facilities.”
Patients don’t have to be high-tech to benefit. Just ask Hoagland. “I don’t trust computers and don’t have anything to do with them.”
But he is glad his doctors know how to make the most of what’s available. 
Veeraswamy says treating patients such as Hoagland with the latest options is rewarding. “When you have the ability to get someone in and out of the hospital after a successful procedure — they’re happy, you’re happy. It’s why we became doctors.”

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