Thoracic Aortic Aneurysm/Thoraco-Abdominal Aneurysms (TAA)
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A thoracic aortic aneurysm (TAA) is a bulge in the aorta which can cause the aorta's diameter to balloon to several times its normal size. Such an aneurysm may rupture, leading to extensive internal bleeding that is frequently fatal.
Aneurysms that involve the thoracic and abdominal aorta are called thoraco-abdominal aneurysms and are an uncommon entity. Historically, the problems associated with the repair of these aneurysms have been relatively high morbidity and mortality rates and the risk of paraplegia, which can be as high as 40 percent depending on the extent and cause of the aneurysm.
The UW Health program for thoraco-abdominal aneurysm repair involves innovative clinical research and application efforts that have resulted in a significant reduction of the risks associated with the repair of these aneurysms.
Anatomy and Terminology
When treatment becomes necessary for a TAA, medical management is often the first choice - including reducing blood pressure, quitting smoking and lowering cholesterol in the patient's diet. However, medical management is not considered a "fix" for TAA - it just reduces the stresses on the aneurysm.
When a TAA is considered to be at risk for rupture, open surgical repair may also be an option. However, not all patients are suitable candidates for open surgical repair. At UW Health, an endovascular repair procedure is an alternative. In this procedure, a large fabric-covered stent is compressed and positioned through a catheter that enters the body through the patient's groin.
Clinical Research and Applications
Over the past 12 years, clinical research and application efforts at the University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinics have reduced the risk associated with thoraco-abdominal aneurysm repair.
We have developed several unique strategies that have shown significant success in treating patients. With these strategies, we have been able to reduce the risk of paralysis by a factor of 10 in elective patients. We have also been able to significantly reduce mortality for this complex surgery.
The combination of clinical and basic research with the cooperation between the specialized surgical and anesthesia teams has resulted in greatly improved morbidity and mortality rates at UW Hospital.
We have experience treating more than 300 patients with this complex disease, and have had excellent results. These improved outcomes clearly result in more functional recovery for these patients and in cost savings in their care.