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Friday, February 14, 2020

Loyola Medicine's Cardiovascular Experts Provide Screening and Treatment for Abdominal Aortic Aneurysms

graphic image of abdominal aortic aneurysms

MAYWOOD, IL – When 64-year-old Robert Johnson of Highland, Indiana thought he had kidney stones, he visited his primary care physician who couldn’t see anything of concern. He pushed, saying “I’m not making up this pain. It’s waking me up every night.” When his urologist sent him for a CT scan, they found a large abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA). He had an emergency surgery and a stentgraft was placed to cover the aneurysm and prevent it from rupturing.

After seven years with the stentgraft in place, Mr. Johnson went to the hospital with the same pain. His cardiologist sent him to Loyola Medicine for treatment, knowing that the problem was beyond the scope of the care the community hospital could provide. “Dr. Bechara at Loyola told me that I was having pain because the aneurysm was eroding into one of my blood vessels in the abdomen which brings blood back to the heart. I was very fortunate that my aneurysm came with pain because I was able to seek medical treatment.”

Carlos Bechara, MD, is a vascular surgeon at Loyola who performs both open and minimally invasive aneurysm surgery. He says, “the most important thing for us to provide patients and physicians is education and awareness about AAAs.” An aneurysm is “a ballooning of the vessels,” says Dr. Bechara, “the larger it gets, the thinner the wall of the blood vessel gets. It’s important to detect it before it ruptures. Not all patients are lucky like Mr. Johnson - some patients present with rupture as their first symptom, so it is very crucial to detect an aneurysm before this occurs.” Aneurysms can be detected with an ultrasound or CT scan. Patients most at risk for AAAs are men over age 65 who have smoked cigarettes and/or have a strong family history of aneurysm. For these patients, a one-time screening is recommended. The goal of detection and treatment is to prevent the aneurysm from rupturing.

Support for patients at Loyola with AAAs includes vascular and cardiac surgeons and a full spectrum of therapies for aneurysms regardless of location. Dr. Bechara explains, “Surgical treatment for an AAA can be performed through open surgery or endovascular surgery. During open surgery, the damaged section of the aorta is removed and a graft is put in its place to restore blood flow.” Medical monitoring is recommended for patients who have small asymptomatic aneurysms. In addition, Loyola also recommends and supports patients in making lifestyle modifications. Dr. Bechara adds, “Patients worry when they have a small aneurysm that it will rupture. The risk is very small. You can do moderate exercise and live a normal life. But the most important thing a patient can do is stop smoking. Smoking can cause aneurysms to continue to enlarge and rupture.”

Dr. Bechara has particular expertise in caring for patients with aneurysms in the chest and abdomen, as well as patients with vascular diseases. He provides a variety of medical, endovascular and surgical interventions for his patients. He also performs clinical research on aneurysms, particularly complex aneurysms in the chest and abdomen. His research was cited in the most recent guidelines established by the Society of Vascular Surgery’s (SVS) for screening and treatment of AAAs. Dr. Bechara is a member of SVS as well as the American College of Surgeons.

About Loyola Medicine and Trinity Health

Loyola Medicine, a member of Trinity Health, is a quaternary care system based in the western suburbs of Chicago that includes Loyola University Medical Center (LUMC), Gottlieb Memorial Hospital, MacNeal Hospital and convenient locations offering primary and specialty care services from 1,877 physicians throughout Cook, Will and DuPage counties. LUMC is a 547-licensed-bed hospital in Maywood that includes the William G. and Mary A. Ryan Center for Heart & Vascular Medicine, the Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center, a Level 1 trauma center, Illinois's largest burn center, a certified comprehensive stroke center and a children’s hospital. Having delivered compassionate care for over 50 years, Loyola also trains the next generation of caregivers through its teaching affiliation with Loyola University Chicago’s Stritch School of Medicine and Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing. Gottlieb is a 247-licensed-bed community hospital in Melrose Park with 150 physician offices, an adult day care program, the Gottlieb Center for Fitness, the Loyola Center for Metabolic Surgery and Bariatric Care and the Loyola Cancer Care & Research at the Marjorie G. Weinberg Cancer Center at Melrose Park. MacNeal Hospital is a 374-bed teaching hospital in Berwyn with advanced inpatient and outpatient medical, surgical and psychiatric services, advanced diagnostics and treatments. MacNeal has a 12-bed acute rehabilitation unit, a 25-bed inpatient skilled nursing facility, and a 68-bed behavioral health program and community clinics. MacNeal has provided quality, patient-centered care to the near west suburbs since 1919.

Trinity Health is one of the largest multi-institutional Catholic healthcare systems in the nation, serving diverse communities that include more than 30 million people across 22 states. Trinity Health includes 92 hospitals, as well as 109 continuing care locations that include PACE programs, senior living facilities and home care and hospice services. Its continuing care programs provide nearly 2.5 million visits annually. Based in Livonia, Mich., and with annual operating revenues of $18.3 billion and assets of $26.2 billion, the organization returns $1.1 billion to its communities annually in the form of charity care and other community benefit programs. Trinity employs about 129,000 colleagues, including 7,800 employed physicians and clinicians. Committed to those who are poor and underserved in its communities, Trinity is known for its focus on the country's aging population. As a single, unified ministry, the organization is the innovator of Senior Emergency Departments, the largest not-for-profit provider of home health care services—ranked by number of visits—in the nation, as well as the nation’s leading provider of PACE (Program of All Inclusive Care for the Elderly) based on the number of available programs.