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Aneurysm Repairs
New Medical Device at MUSC

Aneurysm Repairs - New medical device at MUSC Thoraflex Hybrid frozen elephant trunk
A surgeon holding a Thoraflex Hybrid frozen elephant trunk

Aneurysm Repairs

Aneurysm repairs are significantly improving due to the Thoraflex Hybrid frozen elephant trunk device. Medical University of South Carolina’s (MUSC) is the first hospital in the southeast to implement the use of this device. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the device earlier this year.

What is an aneurysm?

According to the American Heart Association, “An aneurysm occurs when part of an artery wall weakens, allowing it to abnormally balloon out or widen” (

Aneurysms can form in the heart, intestines, spleen, brain, and behind the knee.

What causes an aneurysm?

  • Birth defect
  • Can be hereditary
  • An injury
  • Aortic disease

One cause of aortic disease that we can do something about is uncontrolled high blood pressure.

High Blood Pressure

High blood pressure, or hypertension, is “when the force of your blood pushing against the walls of your blood vessels is consistently too high” ( Hypertension is dangerous because it increases the workload of the heart and blood vessels while making them less efficient. Over time, this leads to damages to the delicate tissue of the arteries due to the force and friction high blood pressure causes. As plaque builds up in these tiny tears along artery walls, it makes it harder for blood to flow which in turn increases blood pressure more. It is a vicious cycle that is deadly if left untreated (

High blood pressure stats

Unfortunately, as it stands now, one in three citizens of South Carolina has high blood pressure. Thousands more may have this condition and not know it, earning high blood pressure the name of “Silent Killer” (SCDHEC).

How to manage high blood pressure

Even with a diagnosis, it can be a hard condition to manage; less than 25% of adults in the United States who have been diagnosed with hypertension have it under control (Post and Courier). Some ways to lower high blood pressure are to eat less salt, maintain a healthy weight and exercise consistently, stop smoking, and take your prescribed medication (SCDHEC).

Can high blood pressure cause an aneurysm?

“Uncontrolled high blood pressure is a key contributor to aortic disease and aneurysms,” per Dr. Sanford Zeigler and Dr. James Benner, both thoracic surgeons (PostandCourier).

Aneurysm symptoms

Aneurysms usually have no symptoms unless they rupture or burst which can be a deadly occurrence.

However, in cases where the aneurysm has not ruptured, there are steps that can be taken to prevent it from bursting (

The Thoraflex Hybrid frozen elephant trunk

The ‘elephant trunk’ name comes from the arch-like shape of the device.

The Thoraflex Hybrid frozen elephant trunk “device is custom-made to outfit the patient and combines a stent graft, a synthetic tube-like device used to replace a portion of an artery, with a polyester gelweave graft with multiple branches for blood vessels to run through” (Post and Courier).

Unfortunately, this device cannot be used in emergency situations since it has to be tailored to a person’s unique heart. However, if an unruptured aneurysm is discovered (which gives doctors enough time to order the device) it can be used to reinforce the artery walls and aid in blood flow. The installation of this device into the heart takes about 30 minutes which is 15 minutes less than the normal timeframe for restoring blood flow during similar procedures (Post and Courier). 

Why this device improves aneurysm repair:

  • blood flow is restored quicker
  • single stage procedure
  • quicker recovery time

One patient who received the Thoraflex Hybrid frozen elephant trunk device at MUSC no longer has to take blood pressure medicine and is doing well after the operation (Post and Courier). This patient says the surgery saved his life.

Though it is a life-saving device, it is best to try and prevent aneurysms and high blood pressure so that it won’t be necessary!

Video: Aneurysm, Causes, Signs and Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment

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