Rose Booth developed an abdominal aortic aneurysm and had been living with it since 2000. The bulging area in the lower part of her aorta, which is the major blood vessel that supplies blood to the body, measured 2.8 centimeters in diameter. It caused backaches for her now and then, but after watching her husband go through a brain aneurysm and a subsequent 40-day hospital stay, Booth, 73, was content living with the condition.
Besides, she was well within the safety margin of 5 centimeters. Once it grows beyond that measurement, the risk of rupture, which could cause life-threatening bleeding, is imminent. Booth’s doctor, Vikram Kashyap, MD, of University Hospitals Harrington Heart & Vascular Institute, kept his eye on it, performing ultrasounds on the aneurysm every six months.
“When you watch what people go through and you’re there with them around the clock…you learn,” she says. “[Plus], they will not do surgery unless it’s 5 centimeters or larger because the risk of doing the surgery – it’s the aorta – is chancy.”
But last summer, her condition began to balloon – literally. Booth’s aneurysm, which had grown to measure only 4.2 centimeters in the previous eight years, was now measuring 5.5 centimeters in diameter. She began to experience severe backaches due to added pressure on vital internal organs from the growing aneurysm. In fact, her kidneys were only functioning at 65 percent. What’s more, her blood pressure went through the roof. It was hovering around 179 over 110 or 120.
That’s when Dr. Kashyap immediately scheduled Booth’s surgery for an endovascular repair just weeks later.
Booth had the surgery August 13 and returned home the very next day. Dr. Kashyap entered the veins through tiny pinholes on her groin on either side of her legs. A stent was placed in the aorta, which reinforced the weakened part of the vessel and created a new channel for blood to flow, which eliminated the risk of rupture. There was no cutting on the surface of the skin and, therefore, no stitching was necessary. This made recovery quick and quite painless for Booth.
“When I left the hospital, I had a small gauze bandage on the right side where they entered with the needle and one on the left side, and that was it,” she says.
After surgery, Booth’s blood pressure dropped back to normal ranges, hanging around 118 over 75. In fact, she was able to drop her blood pressure medications, which had tripled just prior to the surgery, down to a single low dose. Her kidneys are now functioning at 80 percent, which is normal for her age, she says.
Booth attended physical therapy for a few months after surgery to strengthen her core muscles. Today, she remains active, attending fitness classes twice a week at the gym and working out on her treadmill and bike at home.
“You try not to think about it as you’re living, but it’s there and you know many people don’t survive it if it ruptures,” says Booth. “So, I consider myself very lucky and grateful, and I certainly plan to watch my diet.”
By Lyndsey Frey, as featured in the American Heart Association Go Red for Women special section of Cleveland Magazine, February 2013