BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) - Every year, 14,000 Americans die of a blowout of a swelling in the aorta, called an aneurysm. Those swellings are easy to detect, and the blowouts can be prevented.
Michael Zauner had pain in his legs.
"I had a persistent pain in my calf, in my shin; I thought I had shin splints," said Zauner.
But his pain was due to vascular disease. Dr. Paul Anain, chief of vascular surgery at Sisters Hospital, discovered that he had a swollen area in his aorta - an aneurysm.
"Here we see a ballooning out of the blood vessel - ballooning out; this one almost three times the size of the normal vessel. We worry about this blood vessel because if it gets too big, it's like an overinflated balloon - it can pop, and that can really be a catastrophe," said Dr. Anain.
Fixing the aneurysm used to require extensive surgery, but now, many can be done with grafts like these.
Dr. Anain explained, "We can fix these by making two small incisions in the groin and putting stents through the aorta. It avoids any large abdominal incision and really decreases the pain and the recovery time."
Aneurysms can be detected by a simple screening ultrasound exam. Sisters Hospital will be doing them free on September 25th. The people most at risk are smokers. Zauner was one until his surgery.
Zauner said, "Fifty years; been off the cigarettes now for three solid weeks. So, this episode, yeah, made a big decision - it made it easy for me."
He feels fine now. He made a typical quick recovery.
"Went in for surgery on a Friday, came home Sunday morning at noon," said Zauner.
Screening is only effective if the right people get screened. Men over 60 who are, or were, smokers are most at risk. You're also eligible if you're 60, have a family history of an aneurysm, or have diabetes or other vascular diseases. Sisters Hospital will hold a free vascular screening day on September 25th, but it is by appointment only. If you'd like to make an appointment, call 447-6205.
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