Patient Can Eat and Walk Again Without Pain | News | Loyola Medicine
Wednesday, May 27, 2015

After two vascular surgeries, patient can eat and walk again without pain

MAYWOOD, IL – When Carol Werkman first saw Loyola University Medical Center vascular surgeon Bernadette Aulivola, MD, she was suffering from two debilitating conditions:

Every time she ate, Mrs. Werkman felt terrible abdominal pain. And whenever she walked more than a few hundred feet, her legs would begin to hurt.

“My legs felt like they weighed 100 pounds apiece,” she said. “I couldn’t move them.”

Dr. Aulivola successfully treated both problems, which were caused by poor circulation.

Mrs. Werkman had a blockage in a mesenteric artery that supplies blood to the intestines. Consequently, the intestines were not receiving enough blood to metabolize food, causing pain when she ate. “I was hungry but I was afraid to eat,” she said. Mrs. Werkman, who is 5-foot-8, saw her weight drop to 99 pounds.

Dr. Aulivola used a catheter to deploy a stent in the blocked blood vessel. The stent is a metal mesh tube similar to stents used to treat heart patients. The stent spread the blockage open, allowing blood to flow freely to the intestines.

Mrs. Werkman noticed an immediate improvement, and gained 20 pounds in a month. “I could eat anything and feel no pain,” she said.

Once she gained weight, Mrs. Werkman was a better candidate for a major surgery to restore blood flow to her legs. The poor circulation was caused by a blockage in the aorta, the largest blood vessel in the body, which supplies blood to the legs. Such blockages are due to   atherosclerosis, a disease in which plaque builds up inside arteries. Atherosclerosis is linked to smoking, high blood pressure, abnormal cholesterol and hereditary factors.

Dr. Aulivola performed an aortobifemoral bypass. First she cut across the aorta at the point of the blockage. Then she sewed in a bypass graft – a Dacron tube in the shape of an upside-down Y. The top end of the graft was sewn into the aorta in the abdomen, and the two branches were sewn into arteries at the top of each leg. Once implanted, the graft allowed blood to bypass the aortic blockage and flow freely into the legs.

Now, Mrs. Werkman can walk as far as she likes, without pain or heaviness.

“I owe Dr. Aulivola everything,” Mrs. Werkman said. “I’m a brand new person. I can do things now that I haven’t been able to do in years. I can walk. I can eat. I have no pain.”

Dr. Aulivola is an Associate Professor in the Division of Vascular Surgery and Endovascular Therapy of Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine.

Loyola’s vascular care specialists have an array of skills to treat a wide range of arterial disease, including narrowing and blockages of arteries and aneurysms (a bulging in the artery).

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 94 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 133,000 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.