Living with an aortic aneurysm

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More than a million people are living with an aortic aneurysm and don't even know it.

It's a widening of a blood vessel and when they become too large, they can burst or rupture, leaving little hope for survival.

Now, one doctor has developed a new way to treat it before it’s too late.

"I do this most of the time…crochet or knit." ironically, it's a special sewing technique that saved Betty's life. She had a large aortic aneurysm near her left kidney.

"It's 6.5 centimeters or the size of an apple." Vascular Surgeon, Ben Starnes, is the only doctor in North America working with the FDA to build customized stent grafts right in the operating room. “We are able to create the graft on the back table."

Traditional stent grafts would keep the blood flowing in the aorta, but would cut off blood flow to Betty's kidneys-she would need dialysis for the rest of her life. Doctor Starns can pinpoint exactly where the vessel leading to Betty's kidney is and makes a matching stent. "We've burned a hole into the graft. We've physically modified the device and sewn an area of gold marker around it so we can see it on the x-ray."

The stent graft is snaked through the groin, and placed inside the aneurysm. Now, Betty's is shrinking. "Her aneurysm has shrunken down to almost where its nonexistent."

Doctors believe it will be completely gone in just a few months.

Full recovery takes just days, compared to 6-months with a traditional stent grafts and open chest surgery.

This type of stent graft could also be customized for the blood vessels that go to the renal organs and the bowels.

With the new aortic stenting procedures, mortality rates have decreased from 50 percent to 20 percent.