HealthBeat: Repairing an aneurysm


SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — After experiencing discomfort, a Kentucky man ended up in surgery all the way in KELOLAND.

While far from home, Donnie Wolfe is thankful he received care for a medical issue that could have been fatal.

What started out as just aches and stomach pains for Wolfe, turned out to be something much more serious.

The Kentucky native suffered an aortic aneurysm which had previously been repaired– but that repair started to leak, landing him all the way in KELOLAND to receive treatment at Sanford Health.

“I just thought maybe that you know, wasn’t that much to it. And then Dr. Kelly said it was, he said you really need this surgery bad, he said so I got it,” Wolfe said.

“His aorta actually started to leak, fortunately it didn’t blow out. It kind of leaked but contained itself, and he had enough time to get to us so we could treat him,” Kelly said.

Sanford Health vascular surgeon Dr. Patrick Kelly says an aneurysm is an abnormal dilation of a blood vessel, and according to the CDC risk factors include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, hardened arteries and smoking.

Kelly says when an aortic aneurysm starts to leak a patient has the potential to bleed to death– and all of this can happen without warning.

“That’s the problem, there’s not a lot… not a lot of signs and symptoms until it becomes a real problem such as leaking, or infected or dissected, things like that,” Kelly said.

Kelly says Sanford Health has been repairing complex aneurysms since 2012 through a physician sponsored investigational device exemption. That means the device isn’t FDA approved yet– but it is permitted to be used while safety and effectiveness data is collected.

“We invented a stent graph system that allows us to fix complex aneurysms, and that’s why Donnie came to us,” Kelly said.

Although the device is still being studied, he says the process of approval is going well. Donnie says while fearful of the surgery at first, he’s now pain free and feeling better.

“Everything worked out good, so that was nice… yea, real good,” Wolfe said.

Kelly says there are currently no approved devices on the market for the repair of complex aneurysms, but is hopeful their device will be in a pivotal trial next year.

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