Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Offers Less Invasive Thoracic Aortic Aneurysm Repair

New Treatment Offers Better Recovery for Potentially Deadly Condition

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

New Brunswick - Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital today introduced a minimally invasive treatment option for repair of thoracic aortic aneurysms, a potentially deadly bulge on the main vessel in the chest carrying blood from the heart.

When left untreated, a thoracic aortic aneurysm can rupture, causing death within minutes. If detected in time, the aneurysm can be treated with the new GORE TAG Thoracic Endoprosthesis by way of endovascular repair, a minimally invasive procedure in which surgeons gain access to the aneurysm through tiny incisions.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the device in March 2005 for treatment of patients with aneurysms of the descending thoracic aorta, which is the main artery bringing blood to the body below the heart.

A 73-year-old man became Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital's first recipient of the device after undergoing successful surgery today in New Brunswick.

"For the first time, treatment for thoracic aneurysms may be done using a procedure that minimizes the hospital stay and avoids the need for open surgery," said Alan Graham, MD, medical director of the Vascular Center of New Jersey at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, who performed the procedure. "The device is similar to a stent but with a biomaterial that seals off the aneurysm to prevent rupture," added Dr. Graham, who is also a professor of surgery at UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School.

Prior to approval of the GORE TAG device, repair of thoracic aortic aneurysms was limited to traditional open surgical repair, a procedure many patients with complex pre-existing conditions could not endure. Patients able to withstand the traditional open surgical procedure faced risks during the procedure, potential infection and long recovery times. In clinical trials comparing the GORE TAG device to open surgical repair, GORE TAG device patients experienced fewer complications, significantly less procedural blood loss, a shortened hospital stay and a faster return to normal activity.

"Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital continues to research and bring the best treatments to our patients with endovascular therapies," said Lucy Sun Brevetti, MD, a vascular surgeon on the RWJUH medical staff and an assistant professor of surgery with UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School. "Our goal is to treat our patients with the optimum care that minimizes the need for open surgery while producing the best results for long-term recovery."

Patients with a thoracic aortic aneurysm are at risk of death due to internal bleeding resulting from a rupture of their aorta. Until now, open surgery requiring an incision large enough to allow a synthetic graft to be sewn in place had been the indicated treatment for this serious condition. The GORE TAG device can be precisely positioned in the diseased area of the aorta through a small incision made in the patient's groin.

Thoracic aortic aneurysms are diagnosed in approximately 15,000 people annually. This life-threatening condition is generally believed to be significantly under-diagnosed because 3 out of 4 individuals with aneurysms are asymptomatic. Aneurysms are a result of a weakening of the thoracic aorta, the body's main circulatory vessel.

Regular screenings for people who are at risk of having a thoracic aortic aneurysm (TAA) are the key to identifying and treating the condition early. People who have high blood pressure, diabetes, family history of TAA or who smoke may be at risk of having a TAA. Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital offers screenings and encourages those at risk to get checked regularly.

About Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital

Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital (RWJUH) is a 600-bed academic medical center and the principal hospital of Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in New Brunswick, N.J.

RWJUH is an innovative leader in advancing state-of-the-art care. Its Centers of Excellence include cardiovascular care, from minimally invasive heart surgery to transplantation; cancer care; and women’s and children’s care, including The Bristol-Myers Squibb Children’s Hospital (

The hospital is a Level I Trauma Center and serves as a national resource in its ground-breaking approaches to emergency preparedness.

RWJUH has earned significant national recognition for clinical quality and patient safety. It ranks among “America’s Best Hospitals,” according to U.S.News & World Report’s 2012 survey; it is the sixth consecutive year that RWJUH has achieved this prestigious ranking. Also in 2012, U.S.News & World Report ranked BMSCH among the nation’s “Best Children’s Hospitals.” The American College of Surgeons’ Commission on Cancer has rated RWJUH among the nation's best comprehensive cancer centers. The Leapfrog Group rated RWJUH among the 50 exceptional U.S. hospitals, as published in Consumers Digest, and has given the hospital an “A” grade for safety and quality. Harvard University researchers, in a study commissioned by The Commonwealth Fund, identified RWJUH as one of the top 10 hospitals in the nation for clinical quality. RWJUH is a four-time recipient of the prestigious Magnet Award for Nursing Excellence

Attention members of the media: For more information on this release, please contact the Department of Public Relations (732) 937-8521.


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