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Clinical Trials Bring New, Advanced Treatment for Emergency Condition of Aorta
A year ago, Kathy Martin and her husband, Paul, a minister in Akron, Ohio, were in a head on collision, hit by a drunk driver on their way to eat lunch at a restaurant near the Tri-Cities.
As a result of the crash, Kathy suffered 27 broken bones and collapsed lungs. But those injuries were of minimal concern compared to her torn aorta. The aorta is the largest artery in the body. Kathy said if her condition changed just slightly, the tiny tear in her aorta could have resulted in death in a matter of minutes.
"I was so afraid," Kathy said. "I was afraid to cough. I was afraid to sneeze."
Doctors at the hospital in the Tri-Cities transferred Kathy to the Level I Trauma Center at The University of Tennessee Medical Center for stent graft repair of the aorta. Vascular surgeons at the medical center had just started Phase I clinical trials, led by Scott Stevens, MD, Professor of Surgery's Division of Vascular/Transplant Surgery at the UT Graduate School of Medicine and Medical Director of the UT Aortic Center, to evaluate new stents specifically designed for the repair of torn aortas. One clinical trial studies the repair of aortic dissections. Dissections occur when high blood pressure delaminates, or causes to erode, the layers of tissue that make up the wall of the aorta. The second trial is for the repair of aortas torn from violent impact, most commonly during car accidents.
"It’s a devastating problem we can see on any given night in the trauma center," said Dr. Stevens. "It’s very important for people to know that there’s now, particularly when compared to the open, more invasive procedures previously used, an elegant therapy and solution available for many of these patients."
The procedure is minimally invasive, meaning it avoids the higher risk open procedure that requires large incisions. During this procedure, a small incision is made in the femoral artery, located in the upper thigh area. The surgeon remotely guides the stent through the artery until precisely in place and "deploys" it to expand to perfectly fit and seal the torn wall of the aorta.
Kathy, an ideal candidate for the procedure, which was performed by Michael Freeman, MD, Professor and Director of Vascular Surgery, said it worked like a charm for her.
"It didn’t feel like anything had even been done to me," Kathy said. "I just woke up and almost immediately began feeling better. In almost no time, I felt like myself again."
Less than one year later, Kathy walked into the medical center to visit the doctors, nurses and physical therapists who treated her.
"It was important for me to come back and thank them for saving my life," Martin said. "I wanted to show them how far I’ve come in my recovery. I was in rough shape when they last saw me."
These studies represent a significant advancement in the treatment of torn aortas, Dr. Stevens said. Prior to these clinical trials no device existed specifically crafted for these types of aortic repairs.
The University of Tennessee Medical Center is the only site in the East Tennessee region selected to participate in an FDA-approved study using a specifically designed stent graft for the repair of a torn aorta. For more information about these clinical trials or the Aortic Center and Heart Lung Vascular Institute at The University of Tennessee Medical Center, call (865) 305-3222.
|Graduate School of Medicine
University of Tennessee