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Around Our Town...To Your Health

New High-Tech Alternative

04/01/2006 - Thanks to Wyoming Medical Center and two highly skilled healthcare providers, patients diagnosed with the serious vascular condition known as abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) no longer must consider a more invasive surgery their only treatment option.

This new procedure involves using a narrow, flexible tube called a catheter to place a two-piece synthetic graft inside the diseased aorta, sealing off the aneurysm to prevent rupture and making a new path for the blood to flow. Metal prongs that act as anchors and a tight fit against the wall of the aorta permanently lodge the device, which extends into the arteries that supply the legs with blood.

In Wyoming, only two physicians, both Casper-based, perform endovascular bypasses: Dr. James Anderson, general, thoracic and vascular surgeon, and Dr. Thomas Cunningham, interventional radiologist. Wyoming Medical Center provides them with the facilities and equipment to treat AAA patients.

"I treat approximately 25 cases a year," says Anderson, who has practiced medicine in Wyoming for the past 25 years and gone through multiple trainings in endovascular techniques. "The new procedure's advantages over surgery include less risk, less invasiveness and only a two-day hospital stay versus about a week's stay."

The disadvantage, he says, is that endovascular bypass may not stop aneurysm growth, making follow-up exams necessary every year. Regardless, he's happy to offer patients an alternative to surgery and has been satisfied with the results. "We've had 100 percent success."

The aorta, the largest blood vessel in the body, leads from the heart to the lower abdomen and then branches into two arteries that supply the legs with blood. The part of the aorta that lies in the abdomen measures about one and a half inches wide. An aneurysm occurs when part of the wall in this section of the artery becomes weak and begins to swell or balloon. As the swelling increases, the aortic wall becomes thinner and weaker and may tear or rupture. Ruptured aneurysms are often fatal.

Smaller aneurysms may not require treatment but must be checked regularly. Larger aneurysms typically have called for surgical repair. Recent technological advances, however, have led to the development of a kinder, gentler alternative: endovascular bypass.

For more information about AAA, call your family physician. For more information about endovascular bypass, call 307-577-4220.

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