Reducing Your Risk of Rupture

Originally published in Central Florida Health Alliance’s Discover Health, Summer 2011 •

Leesburg Regional Medical Center Among First in Nation to Use Endurant® Stent Graft Reducing Your Risk of Rupture

As a home healthcare nurse, Shirley Gooden of Wildwood knew how important it was to hide her own pain from her patients. For three years, she suffered severe abdominal cramps that gripped her insides at the most inopportune times. “I could be talking to a patient or in line at the grocery store,” remembers Shirley. “There was no telling when the cramps would begin.”

She went to numerous doctors — even to the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville — only to be told that they couldn’t find a reason for her intense pain that felt like charley horses in her stomach. One evening, however, she was at an urgent care center having an ultrasound when the cramps began. The doctor saw it happening and spotted an abdominal aortic aneurysm, a dangerous bulge or ballooning in the main artery that can be deadly if it ruptures.

Shirley, 66, knew that her diagnosis could mean major surgery. “My greatest fear of having it repaired was being opened up,” she says. Luckily for Shirley, Dr. David Sustarsic was one of the first surgeons in the nation to use the Endurant® Stent Graft to repair abdominal aortic aneurysms. The new medical stent device — which the FDA approved in December — doesn’t require major surgery, an extended hospital stay or a long recovery period. “Ten years ago, 80 to 90 percent of patients had to have major surgery to repair aortic aneurysms, and the mortality rate from the surgery was high,” says Dr. Sustarsic. “Now, 80 to 90 percent have the safer stent procedure. Doing an open operation is becoming a rarity.”

The Endurant® stent graft is delivered through catheters inserted into blood vessels in the groin. Surgeons create a new path for blood flow in the patient’s aorta, which reduces pressure on the aneurysm and the risk of rupture. Patients are usually in the hospital overnight and back to their regular activities within a few weeks. Shirley returned to work two weeks after having the procedure.

“The best part is that I needed only Ibuprofen, no pain killers,” she says. “Now I can take my Pekingese-Poodle, Teddy, for walks without any pain.” Dr. Sustarsic, who used the Endurant® Stent Graft within a week of its FDA approval, says that the causes of abdominal aortic aneurysms are unknown, but genetics play a large role. Smoking also increases the risks. He recommends that people with family histories of aortic aneurysms be screened and that Medicare will pay for screenings during the first six months of Medicare coverage.

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