discoveries magazine

A Pioneering Heart Procedure

Egle Plytnikaite

A Cedars-Sinai vascular surgeon was the first in the world to use a minimally invasive device to heal patients with aortic aneurysms. The aorta, the body’s largest artery, delivers blood from the heart to other organs and to limbs. If an aneurysm—a weakening or bulging—develops, it can become life-threatening and require surgery. However, a patient’s anatomy or overall health may preclude an open-chest procedure.

Ali Azizzadeh, MD, director of Vascular Surgery at the Smidt Heart Institute, demonstrated the effectiveness of a recently approved stent graft device, the Valiant Navion, which is delivered through a blood vessel in the groin then into the aorta, where it repairs the aneurysm. Compared to other technologies, the stent graft can travel through smaller, curvier vessels and better adjust to a patient’s anatomy.

"Prior to approval from the Food and Drug Administration, patients with many types of aneurysms and aortic conditions had limited treatment options," Azizzadeh says. "Now, surgeons can fix complex problems of the aorta without open surgery."

The first patient to undergo this pioneering procedure was Nancy Angelino, age 85. "This was a difficult surgery, but I knew I was in good hands," she says. "I feel very lucky to have benefited from this new and improved surgical technique and for the great doctors who cared for me."