Craig's Story

Surviving a Ruptured Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm

Patient in Cleveland on business benefits from UH Harrington Heart & Vascular Institute’s minimally invasive, life-saving technique.

On March 11, upstate New York resident Craig Horning was working in Cleveland when he began to experience sharp pain in his abdomen. Having previously had kidney stones, he assumed that the pain might be stemming from that. But when the pain became too much to bear, a co-worker drove him to his hotel, where he lost consciousness.

He was taken by ambulance to University Hospitals Ahuja Medical Center, where physicians quickly discovered that he had a ruptured abdominal aortic aneurysm. Recognizing the need for emergency surgery, his physicians directed that he be taken to UH Cleveland Medical Center by helicopter.

An aneurysm is a bulge in the wall of the aorta – the largest artery in the body – caused when the artery wall weakens. Craig’s aneurysm occurred in his abdomen. While he was being transported via helicopter, his heart stopped twice, and each time, he was revived by the in-flight trauma team. Craig was later told that he lost three-to-four pints of blood into his abdomen when his aorta ruptured.

“Most people who suffer ruptured abdominal aortic aneurysms unfortunately do not survive,” said Vikram Kashyap, MD, Chief, Division of Vascular Surgery and Endovascular Therapy and Co-Director, Vascular Center, UH Harrington Heart & Vascular Institute. “Most do not make it to the hospital, and for those that do, only 40 percent survive emergency surgery.”

Craig was one of the lucky ones. Upon arrival at UH Cleveland Medical Center, he was rushed into surgery where Dr. Kashyap performed a minimally invasive procedure called EVAR (endovascular aneurysm repair). “This procedure was performed percutaneously – through the skin – under local anesthesia,” said Dr. Kashyap. “Avoiding general anesthesia allows us to more safely manage patients’ blood pressure and avoiding major abdominal surgery decreases the overall morbidity of the aneurysm repair. Luckily, Mr. Horning was a good candidate for EVAR.”

The UH Aortic Program – part of the Vascular Center of UH Harrington Heart & Vascular Institute – provides coordinated evaluations and treatment options for aortic pathologies. The program draws on the expertise of UH vascular and cardiac surgeons, as well as interventional cardiologists, cardiovascular medicine, anesthesia, imaging and genetics specialists.

“We are performing increasingly complex interventions using a multi-modality approach – from the ascending aorta to the pelvis,” said Dr. Kashyap. “The UH Harrington Heart & Vascular Institute’s Vascular Center team is very strong and includes renowned physicians such as Mehdi Shishehbor, DO, PhD and Heather Gornik, MD. We have recruited Jae Cho, MD, a surgeon with extensive aortic surgery experience. With the recent addition of experts including cardiac surgeons Yakov Elgudin, MD and Cristian Baeza, MD, our capabilities of caring for complex patients are expanding even further. The expertise of UH’s Vascular Center team enables us to offer patients a level of care that many other centers cannot.”

Craig is now back home in upstate New York, and is doing very well. He is extremely grateful to UH for the exceptional care he received.

“Dr. Kashyap is a wizard,” said Craig. “I’m in awe of what he was able to do to save me. I was blessed.”

To learn more about the Aortic Program, part of the Vascular Center at UH Harrington Heart & Vascular Institute, please visit our website.

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