UNC is first in U.S. to use new device to treat complex abdominal aortic aneurysms

On Monday, June 18, 2012, the UNC Center for Heart & Vascular Care’s Aortic Disease Management team became the first in the U.S. to successfully treat a complex abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) with the Zenith® Fenestrated AAA Endovascular Graft.

UNC is first in U.S. to use new device to treat complex abdominal aortic aneurysms click to enlarge Dr. Mark Farber, left, and Dr. Marc Camacho, right, prep the patient for the procedure.
UNC is first in U.S. to use new device to treat complex abdominal aortic aneurysms click to enlarge A close-up illustration of the Zenith® Fenestrated AAA Endovascular Graft after it has been attached to the wall of the aorta.

Media contact: Laura Melega, (919) 843-8217, laura_melega@med.unc.edu

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- The UNC Center for Heart & Vascular Care’s Aortic Disease Management team is the first in the nation to use a new FDA-approved device to successfully treat a complex abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA).

Mark A. Farber, MD, Director of UNC’s Aortic Disease Management and Endovascular Clinic, and associate professor of surgery and radiology in the UNC School of Medicine, performed the endovascular surgery on Monday, June 18, 2012 at UNC Hospitals in Chapel Hill.

An abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) is caused by a weakening or thinning of the aortic wall as it passes through the abdomen. The AAA is an actual bulge in the aorta, the largest artery in the body.  The abdominal aorta and iliac arteries supply blood to the body’s pelvis and legs.  

Dr. Farber served as UNC's principal investigator of the clinical trial for the FDA-approved Zenith® Fenestrated AAA Endovascular Graft, manufactured by Cook Medical, Inc. The graft is delivered via a small incision in the groin, then threaded through a blood vessel to the aneurysm site.  

In the past, invasive abdominal surgery for treatment of a complex AAA was the primary option, but advancements in non-invasive endovascular surgery provide more treatment options for an AAA.  Using the custom-manufactured graft, the patient’s pain, complications, length of hospital stay, and recovery time are all significantly reduced.  

According to the FDA website, “The graft is delivered to the aneurysm in the aorta by way of a long, flexible delivery tube. The doctor uses fluoroscopy, a type of x-ray, to guide the graft. The graft is attached to the wall of the aorta by the self-expanding stents. Blood flow can then continue through the aorta without filling the aneurysm. This is intended to prevent further growth and possible rupture of the aneurysm.”

Finding and treating an AAA before the aneurysm ruptures is vital for patient survival.  Former presidential candidate Bob Dole had an abdominal aortic aneurysm in 2001 and was successfully treated during vascular surgery.  Albert Einstein, George C. Scott, and Conway Twitty all died from aortic aneurysms.

The UNC Center for Heart & Vascular Care’s Aortic Disease Management is one of the leading centers in the Southeast, and one of only a few centers in the entire United States to offer comprehensive minimally invasive treatment of complex aortic disease.  Aortic Disease Management leads the way in conducting clinical trials for the advancement of leading-edge aortic treatments. As a result of that commitment to developing new procedures and treatments, 95 percent of aortic health patients at UNC who require procedures can now be treated with minimally invasive techniques.  
For the convenience of our referring physicians and their staff, the UNC Center for Heart & Vascular Care Open Access physician referral service facilitates consultation and collaboration with our team of Heart & Vascular physicians, coordinates all admissions and transfers through a single phone call, and guarantees immediate acceptance for patients. Contact Open Access at 866-862-4327.

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