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University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Surgeons Investigating New Aneurysm Treatment

PITTSBURGH, March 1, 2000 — Vascular and cardiothoracic surgeons at University of Pittsburgh Medical Center are participating in a national study of a new, less-invasive treatment for thoracic aortic aneurysms, a potentially lethal disorder with a poor long-term prognosis if not treated.

A thoracic aneurysm is the ballooning of the aorta, which carries oxygenated blood from the left side of the heart and delivers it to the body. All other arteries branch off from the aorta.

It is a significant cause of death in the United States because the weakened artery can rupture unexpectedly and bleed, causing death in up to 94 percent of patients. Approximately 15,000 Americans die from ruptured aneurysms each year. However, when detected in time, they can usually be repaired with surgery.

"Although open surgery is the accepted treatment for aneurysm, mortality and complications associated with this procedure remain significant," said Michel Makaroun, M.D., professor of surgery and chief of the division of vascular surgery at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.

"Our study is investigating the use of a minimally invasive device called the thoracic EXCLUDER endoprosthesis. This method is a potentially lower risk alternative to standard surgery because it eliminates the need for a large incision by allowing for the repair of the aneurysm through the inside of the artery. Also, by limiting the extent of surgery, hospital stays can be reduced hopefully resulting in lower cost."

The device is inserted into an artery in the patient’s groin and moved to the site of the aneurysm. The device contains a tubular expanded Teflon graft supported by a metallic stent. Once inside the aneurysm, the graft is deployed and is held in place by the metallic framework. Blood then flows through the implant instead of the aneurysm.

The multi-center study will include 118 test patients who will receive the new surgical treatment and 118 control patients who will undergo conventional surgery. About 30 patients will be entered into the study at University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.

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