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Stomach Aneurysms

Contrary to popular thought, aneurysms aren't limited to blood vessels bursting in the brain, causing death.

Stomach aneurysms are just as deadly, News 2's Paul Moniz reports.

George C. Scott, Albert Einstein and Lucille Ball each died of a ruptured aortic aneurysm, victims of the 13th leading cause of death in the country.

Dr. Mark Adelman, the director of vascular surgery at NYU Medical Center, says abdominal aortic aneurysms affect 1.5 million Americans, killing 15,000 every year.

"The aneurysms can rupture and if they do rupture, there's an 80 percent chance of death," he says. "They won't survive the rupture."

Because aortic aneurysms usually produce no symptoms, he calls affected Americans walking time bombs.

"It's just like blowing up a balloon at your kid's birthday party," Dr. Adelman describes. "Eventually, it just gets big enough and bursts."

Sometimes, a doctor can detect them in a physical exam but they are often missed.

Stomach aneurysms occur in the portion of the aorta near the kidneys and generally affect men in their 60s or older. They can be hereditary or caused by high-risk factors such as smoking, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.

Doctors commonly treat aortic aneurysms by opening the patient's abdomen to move aside the internal organs so they can place a polyester artificial aorta inside the natural aorta to stop blood flowing to the aneurysm.

But now there is a new, minimally invasive procedure known as endovascular aortic aneurysm repair which provides an option that is nearly painless.

A polyester graft, which looks like a miniature pair of coveralls, is rolled up inside a catheter and inserted through one or two incisions in the groin. The abdomen is not cut.

The six- to- eight-inch device is then pulled over the portion of the aorta, feeding the aneurysm and anchored by tiny metal hooks.

The Food and Drug Administration considers the new procedure safe and effective but it does not always work.

In about one of every 20 patients, doctors are unable to anchor the polyester graft and must perform the traditional surgery.

The new graft can also leak.

Since the device has only been around for seven years, its durability over time is unknown.

The old graft can last 40 years or longer.

If there is a family history of aneurysms or if any risk factors are prevalent, ask about getting an ultrasound test to detect an aneurysm.

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