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Abdominal aneurysms: How to spot these silent killers

Abdominal aortic aneurysms mainly target white men 65 and older

Tampa, FL. – You probably know about brain aneurysms, but how about abdominal aneurysms?

They mainly target white men 65 years old and older, but women can also get them.

After 52 years of marriage, Michael and Elaine Renner still find the joy in life.

But a series of tests last year brought bad news. Michael had an abdominal aortic aneurysm also known as triple-A. Doctors were direct: if it ruptures, you’ll probably die.  

“Talking to the doctors, they said this is life or death here. You’ve got to have it fixed,” Michael said.

These aneurysms happen when a spot on the body’s largest artery, the aorta, weakens and expands. Michael’s doctors told him his only hope was an experimental device only a few doctors are testing. 

"This is a physician-sponsored trial approved by the FDA, approved by Medicare and would be reimbursed by your insurance carrier," said Dr. Murray Shames, vascular surgeon at USF Health.

Guided by X-rays, doctors assemble what’s known as the Patrick Kelly device over the bulging aorta to prevent it from rupturing. There are risks and USF is one of only six sites in the country testing it. 

“We do like to take precaution with the spinal cord. There is still some risk that you could get a spinal cord injury and end up with paralysis. The risk is significantly lower than getting open traditional surgery,” Shames continued.

“He did a great job,” Michael said.

Now Michael is back enjoying life with Elaine.

“We are very grateful that we have this. And basically, it’s a new lease on life,” Elaine said.

At 73 years old, doctors say Michael has lots of life to live. 

Abdominal aortic aneurysms are called silent killers because they usually cause no symptoms. They are often found during a routine exam. Triple A’s run in families and doctors say screening could save the life of someone you love.