Categories
taaa tbad techniques thoracabdominal aortic aneurysm type b aortic dissection visceral malperfusion

Something new in open thoracoabdominal aortic aneurysm repair

Our debranch first technique described by Dr. Niranjan Hiremath and was presented at CX Aortic in Vienna in October. Hoping to collect multicenter experience with this technique.

Categories
techniques thoracabdominal aortic aneurysm type b aortic dissection

Video of TAAA case using debranch-first technique.

www.linkedin.com/posts/w-park-565310a_clevelandclinicabudhabi-activity-6849686801343369216-2cxD

Link to original blog article regarding this case

Link to journal article.

Categories
EndoRE

An Open Letter to LeMaitre Vascular

George W. LeMaitre, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, LeMaitre Vascular, Inc.

Dear George,

If you go to the LeMaitre Vascular website, there is a link to the story about the company’s founding by your father, Dr. George Lemaitre, which I heard first hand over dinner hosted by him and your mother many years ago. The original LeMaitre Valvulotome has followed me through my career from surgery residency in the 90’s to a recently closed tenure as vascular chief at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi. There is no in-situ bypass that I perform where I am not struck by your father’s story and by the ideals passed by him into the company he founded which had at its core the desire to help vascular surgeons take care of their patients. There are so many other companies, most of them in fact, in this vascular space who are investor-first when it comes to decisions about what diseases, procedures, and specialties to support, but LeMaitre Vascular has always felt different.

For decades, LeMaitre Vascular seemed focused on helping vascular surgeons care for their patients with unique, purpose-designed solutions. Engineering at its finest. It gave life to many ingenious products like Anastoclip, Unballoon, and LeverEdge, that seemed to spring from the minds of working surgeons and physicians directly into their hands, much like the valvulotome. The best ones appealed to the many surgeons who wanted to advantage their patients and their institutions with both lower cost, time efficiency, and equivalent or better outcomes to the usual way things are done. Unfortunately, we live in a universe where the incredibly potent gravitational pull of the investor interests is for high volume, high margin items. This pull greatly exceeds that of the bright yet smaller stars and moons that are common sense, durability, and sustainability. Items that drop out of peel packs, are used once, and thrown into a landfill, have become everything used in healthcare. The sudden absence of EndoRE (remote endarterectomy) on the LeMaitre product page speaks volumes to this. Something that is low volume, durable, subject to repeat use like a set of Vollmar Rings, which are purchase once and used for a long time, must have little appeal to those who author investor reports. It is in such an decision environment that EndoRE the product must have been cancelled from the LeMaitre Vascular web page (link). I wouldn’t think that LeMaitre would give up manufacturing the eponymous valvulotome for low sales figures, but it did give up on remote endarterectomy for that reason.

Let me show you one of the first cases I did after returning to Cleveland. I am now practicing at Fairview and Avon Hospitals, premier flagship hospitals in the Cleveland Clinic fleet, on Cleveland’s west side, and a patient arrived while I was on call with sudden onset of pain in his leg from a lack of blood flow. He had occlusive atherosclerotic plaque extending from his external iliac artery to the above knee popliteal artery causing ischemic rest pain.

Occluded from external iliac origin to the above knee popliteal artery

I contacted LeMaitre Vascular and got in touch with your representative, L. Fisher, who promptly sent the Moll Ring Cutters I needed to perform a remote endarterectomy of the patient’s occlusive external iliac and superficial femoral artery plaque. The technical details of remote endarterectomy are have been covered in my blog (https://vascsurg.me/?s=endore), but in the end, through a 7cm incision in the groin (don’t believe the hype, this is minimally invasive), I restored his arteries to their original open condition. Shown below are the results. It was with great sadness that I heard that the LeMaitre Vascular equipment being sent were the last of the stock available in North America. The patient did very well, with the operation completed well before lunch, and is recovering rapidly from his small wound and big rescue. He gets to walk out of the hospital on two legs, but also with the surety that he avoided a major bypass operation, and avoided the short term gains of stenting from the aorta to the profunda -more peel packs and landfill items and a dubious long term durability. Hey, I even used a XenoSure patch on the common femoral.

The patient’s arteries from external iliac artery in the pelvis to the above knee popliteal artery at the knee are restored to patency
The plaque from the external iliac artery has been removed with a Moll Ring Dissector
This was done in a regular operating room with portable imaging equipment. On the right is the plaque, nearly half a meter extracted from the patient who now has palpable pulses in his foot.

Endarterectomy is foundational to vascular surgery going back to the work of Professors J. Cid Dos Santos and E. Jack Wiley. Through Dr. Kenneth J. Cherry, who trained under Dr. Wiley, and who trained me, I can claim two degrees of separation from the originator of endarterectomy, and this drives my passion for preserving this critical tool in our vascular kit. The basic tools, the endarterectomy rings, are as old as vascular surgery itself. To lose a critical supplier, particularly in a time when the pendulum to open surgery is swinging back, when the best results come from combining traditional surgery and cutting edge endovascular techniques in hybrid procedures such as EndoRE, when the coming healthcare cost-apocalypse will cause everyone to question the value of thousand dollars-plus items dropped from peel packs, is devastating.

I get it that the aSpire stent never panned out, and that disposable dissector/cutters never moved that well, and that you run a business, not a charity. But I do believe that best companies reflect the best values of their people, such as the prompt action and followup of your rep L. Fisher who by getting us the rare supplies, helped in achieving this patient’s excellent results. While I believe there is a business case to be made in preserving and relaunching EndoRE, as endarterectomy has proved to be future proof for nearly a century, I believe more strongly that it is the right thing to do.

Sincerely

W. Michael Park

Categories
Commentary cost innovation ECMO opinion skunk works techniques type b aortic dissection ultrasound vascular lab visceral malperfusion

5 innovations, 4 years and how cost innovation must save healthcare

At CCAD, during my 4 years here as chief of vascular surgery, I had the privilege of working with excellent colleagues in a world class facility in an amazing and generous host nation. Over that time, our operative case volumes grew rapidly (figure below) as we proved our worth.

Our unique situation as both a main campus of Cleveland Clinic and a startup in 2015 with a fraction of the systems already in place at Cleveland made innovation a necessity. When making do became making great, we achieved the world class results as we were tasked to do. I count 5 off the top off my head in vascular, but there are many more that we do every day, contributed by all the team members. It is in the Cleveland Clinic’s DNA, from its origins century ago in the vasty fields of wartime France, this systemic mission to make things better. I think a lot of how our founders worked from necessity near the trenches in operating theaters within tents, sleeping on rough cots, thousands of miles from Cleveland. It is working in a startup hospital here, a stunning facility endowed by the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, that I realized that practical innovations were the lifeblood of hospitals in times past, and that it continues to have meaning when lives are saved. In a world where costs, not ideas, will, or skills, limit the availability of healthcare, cost innovation will play a large role in its salvation.

Innovation #1: Debranching Thoracoabdominal Aortic Aneurysm

The thoracoabdominal aortic aneurysm (TAAA) is the most challenging operation to do either with open or endovascular approaches because of the complications associated with the procedure including bleeding, kidney failure, spinal cord ischemia, and death. You really can only get good by doing a lot of these regularly, as it brings with it precious experience for the OR, ICU, rehab, and floor staff. The patients with TAAA presenting to CCAD do not always have the opportunity to travel to one of the acknowledged aortic centers (with which each of the faculty here have close ties), and we must offer results that match those other centers. To me, the biggest hassle and source of complication with an open TAAA repair is the drying up of bleeding at the end of the case, the result of long visceral clamp times. Long procedure time prolongs the case and exposes the patient to a more turbulent and prolonged recovery and higher risk.

Endovascular repair with branched or fenestrated stent grafts offers one solution in avoiding the thoracoabdominal exposure and long procedure times. Unfortunately, a significant minority of patients do not have the anatomy for endovascular approaches. We have the skills, staffing, and facilities to offer both approaches, but are handicapped by low volume. Review of our volumes show that aortic aneurysm disease is dwarfed by diabetic circulatory problems. So to offer these patients the same results with open aortic surgery as the patients I had at main campus in Cleveland, I had to cheat a bit by rearranging the deck. How so? By turning the highwire act of thoracoabdominal aortic aneurysm surgery and turning into a deliberate walk on a low balance beam. By debranching the visceral branches from the graft one by one, the visceral ischemia time is minimized (video) or largely eliminated.

I discussed this with Dr. Niranjen Hiremath, our aortic trained clinical associate and like all things in medicine, a similar concept was applied by his mentor, Dr. Matalanis in Australia, to the aortic arch. We have performed two of these and both patients survived and are doing well, including the most recent one with a hybrid extant 2 repair. We published the technique after the first case in Journal of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery (figure below, reference 1). I also presented the first case on this blog (link). More gratifying are the reports of adoption of this technique around the world. The patients come out of the operation without the torrent of coagulopathic bleeding seen with the traditional technique.

Innovation #2, The Vascular Lab in Every Patient’s Room

One of the things that happened early in my tenure was realizing how limited the tools available for vascular assessment were for non vascular caregivers. Both the physical examination with pulse palpation and pulse Doppler examination are challenging to master and usually fail to answer the simple question: is there enough perfusion? The absence of a pulse or Doppler signal in the hands of a non-vascular caregiver is an inconstant thing, and various projects have been undertaken that do not specifically address the triage gap that vascular surgery has compared to cardiology for chest pain. Not all chest pains are referred to cardiology. Only those those patients who pass the screening test of EKG and serum troponin levels are referred. My first inclination was to budget for pulse volume recording machines to be located in the ED and ICU’s of the hospital, but it was not a simple solution and would require stretching the limited vascular lab staff. Then it dawned on me that the toe waveforms offered a solution. On the PVR machines, the toe waveforms are captured by transmitting red laser light through the nail of the toe. A receptor captures a waveform (figure below) that is reflects the passage of blood that absorbs that red light.

This is in fact the identical technology in a pulse oximeter which has extra circuitry to calculate an oxygen saturation. I was not interested in the saturation, but rather the waveform. It turns out, for all practical purposes, the waveform given by pulse oximeter units is qualitatively the same as that given by the pulse volume recorder’s digital plethysmograph (figure below).

So now, when I get a phone call from the ED that a patient has no DP or PT pulse, I ask the caller to place a pulse oximeter with a waveform trace on the patient’s second toe (or nearest extant toe). I then ask, is there a waveform? The presence of a waveform, no matter how dampened, means the patient does not face acute ischemia, and can safely wait until the morning, avoiding a drive in the middle of the night (figure below, severely dampened waveforms).

an abnormal DPPG captured with a hospital ICU pulse oximeter

We are validating this with a study that has completed data collection and hope to present this simple test to a broad audience. This is something akin to having a point of care vascular lab study that can answer a simple question: is there blood flow at the level of the toes? The finer points of “how much blood flow” can be answered by formal testing but that keen absence of broad vascular assessment skills among healthcare providers and absence of a simple test like an EKG for MI will feel less sharp, particularly because of the near universal availability of a pulse oximeter with waveform display throughout most hospitals.

Innovation #3: Assessing for Visceral Malperfusion before Surgery for Aortic Dissection

The typical scenario for a sad ending is this: a patient undergoes emergency surgery for an ascending aortic dissection. The operation ends in the middle of the night. The morning labs show a lactate of 10 which had been rising since the end of the operation from a high borderline level of 2. The urine output also dropped to zero. The patient remains intubated and has palpable femoral pulses, but now has a distended abdomen full of bowel gas, and is unable to report pain. The decision is made to get a CTA on top of the ones the patient received preoperatively which nearly guarantees permanent renal failure and need for hemodialysis. The descending aortic portion of the dissection is noted to be causing a malperfusion of the SMA and left renal artery, and there is pneumatosis of the small bowel through transverse colon which are resected after revascularization. The patient recovers with a jejunostopy and lifelong TPN and hemodialysis. This sad scenario is what I thought about when I was asked to assess a patient intraoperatively without a femoral pulses after an aortic dissection for possible visceral malperfusion. The question was if CT with contrast was indicated. Having an RVT credential (I’m old), I frequently do my own scans, and have found under general anesthesia, the abdomen is easy to scan well. The patient is typically prepped from neck to toes for the operation, so sliding in with an abdominal probe was simple. It is possible to get excellent windows on the visceral segment abdominal aorta with long axis and short axis views of the celiac axis, SMA, renal arteries, and iiac and lower extremity arteries (figure below).

At CCAD, the patients also get a TEE, and the arch and descending thoracic aorta is well visualized. That first patient underwent a femorofemoral bypass for the lower extremity malperfusion, and I found that the left renal artery had obstruction, but the right did not. The patient was reassessed at the end of the case and good visceral perfusion was seen at that point. I realized I was onto something, and whenever possible now for ascending aortic dissections, myself or the vascular tech is called to evaluate the visceral and lower extremity arteries at the beginning of the case, avoiding contrast studies. We are submitting the experience as an abstract for the STS conference.

Innovation #4: Retrograde tibial artery distal perfusion cannulas for ECMO

This past year, ECMO has been lifesaving for many patients facing cardiovascular collapse from COVID and other conditions. Once the cannulas go in, a hypoxic patient in heart failure has a chance at recovery. The drama of the moment causes the caregivers to overlook the fact that up to 10 percent of patients without a distal perfusion cannula will develop leg ischemia, and that after 6 hours, irreversible will occur leading in neuromuscular death and limb loss. This has happened for two patients transferred for care this year. The problem is that the skill of placing a antegrade femoral artery distal perfusion cannula in the proximal thigh is not always present, and the ability to judge perfusion is degraded with ECMO flow. While older patients on ECMO may have significant arterial disease, young patients generally do not, and I saw that as an opportunity for simplifying the distal perfusion cannula by placing a 5F micropuncture sheath into the dorsalis pedis artery (figure below).

The distal perfusion cannula is in the dorsalis pedis artery

This provided sufficient flow to avoid limb loss in a series of patients on which we published a technical article (reference 2) and presented. The retrograde access of these supericial vessels is within the technical envelope of most intensivists and cardiologists, those who most frequently place emergency ECMO cannulae. It was gratifying to catch up with one of my first patients who walked in with both legs, having undergone a heart transplant while bridged with ECMO.

Innovation #5: Park Clamp Used in Thoracoscopic and Laparoscopic Surgery

The Park Clamp (link) is a circular compressor that is intended to compress bleeding tissues allowing for suturing within the circle. I invented this while at main campus, and missing it sorely, had two custom made at the prototyping facility at Cleveland Clinic and shipped into CCAD. It is particularly useful in venous bleeding during spinal exposures, redo groins around the profunda, and retroperitoneal tumor resection. Dr. Redha Souilamas, chief of thoracic surgery (image above) found it particularly useful in thoracoscopic pneumonectomies, when staple line bleeding is encountered on the pulmonary artery (image below).

Pulmonary artery staple line bleeding controlled, ready for suturing.

In laparoscopic surgery, it is possible to introduce the compressor via a small incision and this will allow for laparoscopic suturing of a vascular injury in a bloodless field. I was able to resect an IVC tumor thrombus with Dr. Waleed Hassen using this device to achieve hemostasis. The critical feature of the Park Clamp, lacking a manufacturer, is that we made it ourselves in our own hospital.

Conclusion: a modest proposal or how cost innovation will save health care

Inventions and innovations exist in a vacuum unless they are implemented, and this requires the will to accept the possibility of a better way. You should never be satisfied with the status quo if there is harm to be reduced. There has to be buy in from everyone involved or you get the situation I had when I was a PGY-2 in 1995 in the ICU. Being the surgical ICU resident, I was called nearly hourly to change the dressing on a patient with HIV and necrotizing pancreatitis with an open abdomen. There was over a liter an hour of exudate soaking the dressings and pads, making it a nightmare for the nurses. After a third round of this and feeling it would interrupt lunch, I came upon a plan for covering the wound with lap pads, overlaying a chest tube, and sealing everything with an Ioban. With the chest tube to negative pressure via a Pleuravac, the calls to change the patient’s dressing ceased, and the nurses no longer hand to change the bedding hourly -bedding that was soaked with HIV positive exudate. I was very pleased about this until I was stat called to the director’s office. I was given the dressing down of my life -how dare I experiment on his patient and didn’t I think that placing a suction on the transverse colon would result in a fistula? I hung my head in shame and took down the dressing. Of course, readers will know that this preceded the VAC dressing by about a decade, and negative pressure wound therapy is now a multi-billion dollar industry. What it teaches me to this day is that progress only happens when success is actually seen by everyone, but also there has to be buy-in from the stakeholders -the people who bear responsibility for any bad outcomes -fistula and death in the case of this proto-VAC dressing. Without convincing everyone, there is no success, and the invention goes off to die.

The fact is, one time early in my tenure here at CCAD, we ran out of negative pressure pumps, and I placed this chest tube/Pleurevac dressing on a patient with a large groin wound that was leaking high volumes of exudate and lymph. After two days, when a VAC pump became available, the patient’s groin turned out to be clean and granulating and it came to me that the next great leap in innovation is low cost innovation.

Cost Innovation, to name it, is using what is available, sometimes repurposing, or at others, dialing back the clock, to replace costly things that threaten to break a hospital’s finances while maintaining quality. It was only a few generations ago when hospitals were self contained communities. Rather than use peel packs of disposable gowns and drapes, there were tailors, seamstresses, and launderers making and maintaining the same. The Mayo Clinic was making its own insulin after discovering it and gave away the recipe out of concern for ethics -out of believing it is wrong to profit from a life threatening condition. We have the technology and capacity to make low cost endoscopes and reprocess them -possibly undercutting current costs by a factor of a thousand. We slaughter millions of hogs and cows annually, but harvest no heparin from them in the US. Laser CNC cutters, 3D printers, and enthusiastic makers have proliferated and could make every item that we currently open from a peel pack, use once, and discard into landfills -one only has to look at the cottage industry of face shields and hand sanitizers that bloomed last year during the pandemic. Pharmacists are fully capable and trained to manufacture custom pills and compound salves and solutions by the gallons if only if they are allowed to, saving hospitals millions in cost of medications sold in blister packs and tiny tubes and bottles. Stents can be printed in-house, and stent grafts can be custom made (link). Every town or city has tradespeople who can work stainless steel, plastic, and glass, or make and program custom computers -it is a short jump to making medical equipment at scale in your hospital.

Cost innovation is the only way out for the inflationary cost cycle that has throttled healthcare throughout the world. We have become a world where healthcare is delivered out of peel packs and million dollar investments to perform single procedures is considered normal and desirable, almost to the point of thinking people as coming in disposable peel packs. When I watch shows about hospitals a century ago, such as The Knick, I don’t guffaw at the old-timey medical stuff. I see a fervent environment of innovation in purposeful communities of specialized workers within hospital walls. We need to return to such practicality if we are to break out of the plastic peel pack.

References

  1. Hiremath N, Younes H, Aleinati T, Park WM. Open repair of extent-III thoracoabdominal aortic aneurysm using a modified branch-first technique. JTCVS Tech. 2021 Mar 13;7:29-31. doi: 10.1016/j.xjtc.2021.03.014. PMID: 34318197; PMCID: PMC8312144.
  2. Göbölös L, Hogan M, Kakar V, Raposo N, Sänger S, Bhatnagar G, Park WM. Alternative option for limb reperfusion cannula placement for percutaneous femoral veno-arterial ECMO. Perfusion. 2021 Mar 26:2676591211003282. doi: 10.1177/02676591211003282. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 33765883.
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Uncategorized

Describe vascular surgery without saying it in one sentence…

Too much blood, not enough blood.

Categories
Commentary Lifestyle

Top 10 things to get your favorite vascular surgeon, 2021 -pandemic edition

My list of favorite things this year is simpler than in the past, in respect for the difficulties of the past year. Everything is under $300, and I use these every day. Treat your surgeon well and she will give you a nice scar.

1. Lenovo Ideapad Duet. Cloud computing has diminished the need to carry processing power unless you are editing Pixar films or playing super high resolution video games. For composing words on the go, and sketching diagrams for patients, and putting together powerpoints, this Chromebook hits the sweetspot of price, battery life, and quality. It comes with easel stand and attached keyboard with trackpad. An Apple Magic Keyboard for the iPad costs more than the Duet! Battery life is easily all day, and in tablet mode, streaming movies is great. It fits on the stunted traytables on airplanes well because of its petite size. I drew this sketch for planning an arch repair on it. Can’t beat the price at $249 and cheaper with discounts. I got mine as a open box at Best Buy for $200.

Sketch made on a Lenovo Duet

2. Theragun Mini. It is a stereotype that middle aged Asians buy giant massage chairs, which are AMAZING, but if you want something more manageable, the Theragun Mini is the ticket. It is a personal massager designed for deep tissue massage, with a lithium ion battery built in. After a long day of operating, all the aches are pulverized by this machine.

Theragun Mini

3. Masterclass Subscription -During pandemic, diversions like enrolling in an MBA program and Youtube yoga, are the hot ticket, but for someone with a short attention span in need of non-work diversion, these classes are great! Penn and Teller teach magic. Steve Martin teaches comedy. And FBI hostage negotiator Chris Voss teaches high stakes negotiation. All of these highly relevant to a vascular surgeon. Trust me.

4. Moleskine Backpack -I have struggled with overly heavy work bags, but need to carry my computer and some papers and maybe a water bottle, pens, a powerbank, some cables. I find black vinyl laptop bags generally horrible to look at, and too easy to overpack. Expensive leather designer bags carry a similar price as a handbag from Gucci or Louis Vuitton, and would not survive a day without getting scuffed. This backpack from Moleskine, yes the notebook company, is both beautiful to look at but practical as well. It is water resistant and holds everything I need for the day. Has a measured number of compartments and inner panels for pens, cables, and cards, and is well padded for carrying your electronics. Looks great, and would survive medical school.

Moleskine Backpack -not just for notebooks

5. Freewrite Traveler -a writing appliance, a typewriter. The original Freewrite was designed to look like a typewriter, and the spirit of the machine is it takes away all the distractions of the internet for the focus of plain paper. The Traveler is the second machine by the Freewrite people, and offers the same focused writing in a portable package. Not for everyone, this one, but if you like writing, if you must write, this is amazing. It features a Kindle-like e-ink screen, and you type without the ability to edit. Everything you write goes to the cloud of your choice, including Dropbox and Drive, and so you won’t lose it. It has internal space for thousands of pages, and a 4 week battery life. If you hope to write the Great American Novel, this is the gadget for you.

Freewrite Traveler for the Hemigway in you

6. LED UV Blacklight -If you’re of a certain age, Spencer’s Gifts was one of the stops you made at the mall, and you always checked out the blacklight section, with its fluorescent posters and purple lamps that made your white shirt glow. As a surgeon, you want a Wood’s Lamp, but most hospitals do not have one, and most nursing staff have no idea what you are talking about. Good thing is that there are many cheap but powerful LED Blacklight options that emit UV light. This is great to have in the OR for a fluorescein test of gut perfusion (link). Take it camping in the deserts around here and you can see the scorpions at night! Or you can torture yourself by breaking it out at the next hotel you stay at and visualize all the glowing “protein stains.” Under $10, but slightly more for the higher power ones.

portable LED blacklight!

7. Old School iPod -This is as close as you can get to getting a Walkman without dealing with the inconvenience or poor sound quality of cassette tapes. In 2004, these were cutting edge, and Apple to its credit still supports file transfers of purchased (but not streaming) music files. The cool thing about these is that if you can do a carotid endarterectomy, replacing the battery and upgrading the memory are nothing, and there are many videos on line to show you how. These units are cheap to find on eBay, and there is nothing cooler than carrying around 10,000 songs in your pocket, without the need for a network, meaning uninterrupted music in the OR without relying on the network.

An iPod I purchased in 2006, upgraded to 32gB from original 8gB, just replaced battery for third time, still works.

8. Golf Ball Stamps -These stamps are meant to mark golf balls, but they are incredibly useful for graphically marking up a printed list. Each of these symbols represents a status or an action, which lets me look at a list at a glance and remember exactly what needs to happen. At pro shops everywhere.

Meant for golf, repurposed to act as semiotic markers on lists

9. Swiss Army Knife -the first one I got was as a graduation gift from my dad, thought technically not a gift as superstition dictated I purchase it from him for a dollar, it was the same as this one which is currently my fourth, bought at a Boy Scout camp for about $10. I keep one in my checked luggage for use at my destination for opening bottles, uncorking wine, cutting salume and cheeses, tightening screws, and when the occasion arises, performing an appendectomy (need a hotel sewing kit). This one also has tiny forceps and a toothpick.

With this, I can do several life saving operations.

10. Skirt steak -rarely seen any more shrink wrapped at chain groceries, you generally have to ask the fellow behind the counter or know a butcher. This diaphragmatic muscle used to be cheap. Considered offal in many places, this formerly cheap meat ended up being the go to meet for tacos and street cart barbecues in Asia, but don’t sniff at it. As it is not a structural muscle, it is not tough, has great flavor, and while leaner than traditional steak cuts, not devoid of fat like a filet (which is not my favorite) giving it enough buttery fat tones to remind you it is meat. Because it’s harder to find, that means the people who supply it know beef. Here in Abu Dhabi, I ordered this from the CarniStore in Dubai. Dinner is served.

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Uncategorized

Editorial Board

So honored to be on the editorial board of JVSVL

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announcement

Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi Heart and Vascular Update Webinar

Sign up for webinar update of cardiovascular diseases presented by experts from the Cleveland Clinic Enterprise from around the world, hosted by CCAD.

https://www.heartandvascularupdate.com/

Register at link above, presentations by cardiologists, cardiac and vascular surgeons of Cleveland Clinic. Sunday, April 4th, 2021.

Categories
median arcuate ligament syndrome opinion peripheral aneurysm techniques

Nonoperative management of median arcuate ligament syndrome (MALS)

The patient is a young woman who presented with classic symptoms and findings of median arcuate ligament syndrome (MALS). She avoided food because eating triggered severe pain in her upper abdomen. Over a year, this resulted in 15 pounds of weight loss. As a result, she no longer had the energy to work or exercise. She had an extensive gastrointestinal workup including blood work (LFT’s, amylase, cholesterol panel), abdominal CT scan, and upper endoscopy which were normal except for the finding of narrowing of the celiac axis due to compression by the median arcuate ligament. Examination was notable for upper abdominal pain exacerbated by pressure and seated, hunched-over posture. Unfortunately, due to her health insurance, surgery was not covered and she did not want any. So I recommended she try the following. 

  1. Eat standing up with good posture, shoulder back, back arched, taking deep breaths and holding once food passes
  2. Practice upward facing dog yoga pose (figure) 5 reps daily with deep inhalation breath holds. If this is difficult, do this standing up. 
  3. Improve the posture during seated work, never hunch over and pressed forward with “shrimp back,” periodically take a deep breath and hold with excellent posture. 
Upward facing dog yoga pose -shoulders square, outward collar bone tension, with deep inhalation breath holds

Over the past several years, I’ve noted that most patients respond to this, even in acute MALS pain situations (yes, there is acute MALS like slipped discs, for another post). That patient came back a few weeks later reporting that she was able to eat more food, more frequently. She also acknowledged compliance with the exercise and postural adjustments at work. A month later she reported regaining her lost weight and only mild pain with sitting in a car for a long time. She was still eating standing up, and she was grateful for having been treated without surgery.

From reference below, a mechanism for celiac plexus compression, injury, fibrosis, and development of neuropathy

We have postulated that MALS is a nerve compression syndrome of the celiac plexus by the median arcuate ligament (reference). There are two consequences to MALS, neither of which is mesenteric ischemia. The first is this compression of the celiac plexus with injury resulting in inflammation and fibrosis, resulting in further compression and a neuropathy of the celiac plexus. This neuropathy triggers aberrant pain sensations in response to eating. The other consequence is remodeling and injury due to arterial compression. The celiac axis can develop post-stenotic dilatation, growing large enough to be considered aneurysmal. The compression can damage the intima resulting in dissection. The artery can be injured and a pseudoaneurysm can develop. Finally, the aneurysmal segments may develop thrombosis and be the source of thromboembolism, usually to the spleen. Even when the celiac axis clots off, unless there has been resectional surgery such as a Whipple or splenectomy, the stomach gets enough collateral flow that ischemia is rare when celiac axis occlusion occurs. So similarly to  thoracic outlet syndrome (TOS), there is a neurogenic MALS and an arterial MALS. 

The first line of therapy in neurogenic TOS is physical therapy. With symptomatic MALS, I wondered if there could be physical therapy as well. This young woman and others I have managed nonoperatively suggests good response in some,  and partial response in most to exercises and maneuvers designed to address the compression.

Currently, in lieu of celiac plexus block, I have patients treat their MALS nonoperatively using the above protocol  for 2-4 weeks, typically while they undergo further workup to rule out more common gastrointestinal etiologies of their abdominal pain, and many have been able to improve their circumstances with these measures alone. This patient chose not to have operation as she was able to live symptom free and regain lost weight with these recommendations alone. 

Addendum

I received a comment from Ms. Suzanne Peek, president of the National MALS Foundation, who correctly pointed out not everyone presents in this way. I agree each patient undergoes a unique journey that is often marked by diagnostic delays because this is a rare condition. As I stated, not every patient responds to this regimen and after work up typically will undergo surgery to which in our published results 85% have a positive response to when diagnosed with MALS. Is certainly an area of further study to see if more people can respond to this non-operative approach. Our previous protocol which we instituted after the publication of our report was to use celiac plexus blockade as a diagnostic study and occasionally permanent blockade as therapy for those with prohibitive operative risk. A positive response to this regimen may signal a positive response to surgical celiac plexus ablation.

Reference

Weber JM, Boules M, Fong K, Abraham B, Bena J, El-Hayek K, Kroh M, Park WM. Median Arcuate Ligament Syndrome Is Not a Vascular Disease. Ann Vasc Surg. 2016 Jan;30:22-7. doi: 10.1016/j.avsg.2015.07.013. Epub 2015 Sep 10. PMID: 26365109.

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AAA complications Endoleak EVAR imaging open aneurysm surgery opinion ruptured AAA Uncategorized

Off the guidelines: type II endoleak can derail the perfect EVAR

Every once in a while, I will make an exception to the SVS guidelines on AAA repair with regard to size at time of repair (link). I have a bunch of excuses. When I trained in 2000-2002 with several giants of vascular surgery, there was some controversy when the first guidelines came out in 2003 (link). The board answer became 5.5cm that year, but where I trained, it was a minority opinion held by Dr. Jeb Hallett. The majority was in the belief that as long as operative mortality was low, even high risk AAA repair could be undertaken (link). The published risk for Mayo was low, and that came from both technical excellence and high volume (more on that later). The criteria during my fellowship was 4.5cm in good risk patients for open repair based on data generated in the 1980’s and 90’s during Dr. Hollier’s tenure.

Then as now, the debate centered around the balance of risk. At specialty centers that achieved less than 1% mortality rate for elective open AAA repair, 4.5cm in good risk patients would seem perfectly reasonable. But given the 5-10% mortality seen in the Medicare database at that time for community practice, the 5.5 cm criteria was not only good science, it was prudent. The first set of guidelines held off the contentious volume recommendations that was the nidus of conflict within other surgical societies.

The advent of endovascular was a game changer -the mortality rate in the Medicare databases was 1-2% for EVAR in the community setting, meaning more surgeons in most hospitals could achieve tertiary center levels of mortality with this new technology. The issue was never really settled in my mind through the 2000’s, even with the PIVOTAL Study. I enrolled patients into the PIVOTAL Study (link) at that 4.5cm threshold during my time in Iowa. Eventually I lost equipoise and I stopped enrolling after a handful of patients. It had to do with graft durability.

Around that time, I took two patients in a row to the operating room for sac expansion without identifiable endoleak. They were Dacron and stent-based endografts placed about 5-7 years before by another surgeon and aortography failed to show type I or III endoleak. Sac growth was over a centimeter in 6 months and the aneurysm size was over 6cm in both. I chose to marsupialize the sac and oversew any leaks, with the plan to replace the graft if there was a significant leak. On opening the sac, no significant lumbar or IMA leaks were encountered but in these patients a stream of blood could be seen coming from the sutures securing the stents. It was the same graft that was in the trial, the AneuRx, and that was when I realized that these grafts have the potential to fail in the same way that patio umbrellas leak after years of use -cloth sewn to rigid metal with movement wears open the cloth wherever there is stitching. This did not happen with open repair. I lost enthusiasm for the trial as I lost faith in this graft which was retired from the market. I placed pledgetted sutures to close the leaks on both patients, and closed the aneurysm sac tightly around the graft in one patient who was higher risk, and replaced the stent graft in the other.

There are some exceptions to justify repair of 4.5-5.5cm AAA. During my time in practice, there were patients who lived far away from major medical centers who would not survive a ruptured AAA even if the rupture rate was low and who confessed they only came into town every five years or so. There were patients who suffered from clinical anxiety whose AAA was documented by a psychiatrist to amplify their anxiety. There were patients with vague abdominal pain for whom thorough workup have ruled out gastrointestinal causes and every visit to the ER triggered a CT scan to rule out AAA rupture. And there seemed to be some patients who seemed to have such perfect anatomy for EVAR, whose risks were low, and whose growth rates were so consistent that their repairs could be timed on the calendar. Some combination of these factors and lobbying on the part of the patient got them their repair in the 5cm range. And they still do.

The patient is a man in his sixties with hypertension who presented with a 4.7cm AAA which in various reports he came with described 5.2×4.7cm. After review of his images, it was clear it was 4.7cm. If measured on a typical axial cut CT scan or a horizontally oriented ultrasound probe, a cylindrical aortic aneurysm will be seen as an ellipse in cross section. A radiology report will typically report an aneurysms length and the anteroposterior and lateral dimensions. If you cut a sausage at an angle, the ovals you cut can be quite wide but the smaller length of the oval reflects the diameter of the sausage.

Looking back at his records, for three years he had multiple CT scans for abdominal  pain showing the AAA and a well documented record of growth of about 2-3mm annually -the normal growth rate. He asked me to prognosticate and so I relayed that 4.7cm in 2017 with a 3mm growth rate, we would be operating in 2020. The anatomy was favorable with a long infrarenal neck and good iliac arteries for distal seal and access. He was quite anxious as whenever he had abdominal pain, his local doctors would discuss the AAA and its risks or order a CT. After a long discussion and considerable lobbying by the patient and family, I agreed to repair his 4.7cm AAA.

The EVAR was performed percutaneously. No endoleak was detected by completion arteriography (figure). He was soon discharged and was grateful. In followup, CT scan showed excellent coverage of the proximal and distal zones and absence of type III endoleaks. There was increased density to suggest a type II leak, but his inferior mesenteric artery was not the source of it. over a three year period, his aneurysm sac continued its 2-3mm of annual growth despite the presence of the the stent graft.

While CT failed to locate this endoleak, abdominal duplex ultrasound did showing flow from a small surface vessel (duplex below, figure at beginning of post). It was not the inferior mesenteric artery which can be treated endovascularly (link) or laparoscopically (link). CT scan suggested that it was one of those anterior branch vessels that one would encounter in exposing the aorta. Usually these were higher up as accessory phrenic arteries, but these fragile vessels, larger than vasovasorum, but smaller than named aortic branches, are seen feeding the tissues of the retroperitoneum.

Ultrasound revealed the type II endoleak from an anterior retroperitoneal branch artery.

Type II endoleaks are not benign. The flow of blood into the aneurysm sac after stent graft repair is almost never benign. It is a contained hemorrhage. There are three components to the pressure signal  seen by the aortic aneurysmal wall that could trigger breakdown, remodeling, and aneurysm growth. They include pressure, heart rate, and the rate of change of pressure. The presence of fresh thrombus may play an inflammatory role. Some endoleaks clearly have a circuit and others are sacs at the terminus of their feeding vessels, never shutting down because the AAA sac can both accept and eject the blood flow. Changes in AAA sac morphology due to sac growth can cause problems with marginal seals, component separation, and component wear. Sac growth can cause pain. Ruptures, while rare, can cause death. Mostly, type II endoleaks generate more procedures because it is hard to ignore continued growth.

Review of aortogram from device implantation showed a small anterior artery arising from the proximal aortic sac (arrow)

Three years of followup showed growth of the AAA sac to 5.5cm, which ironically threshold for repair. Again, no type I or III endoleak could be seen. He reached his calculated repair date, and I discussed our options in detail.

1. Do nothing, keep following

2. Endovascular attempt

3. Open surgery, marsupialization

4. Laparoscopic ligation of target vessel

Doing nothing hasn’t worked for 3 years. What would more time buy? Endovascular -to where. The IMA is the usual target for an endovascular attempt, although iliolumbar access is possible (link), we really needed to fix this with one attempt. Open surgery is a great option -a short supraumbilical incision is all that would be needed to open the AAA sac and oversew the collaterals. The patient did not want a laparotomy. There are reports of laparoscopic guided endovascular access with endovascular coiling of the remnant sac with fluoroscopy. This adheres to the letter of the claim of minimal access, but really?

I compromised with the patient and offered laparoscopy. I have ligated the IMA a handful of times laparoscopically -these are relatively fast and straightforward cases. As I had the location of the endoleak, I felt it should be straighforward to dissect out the anterior sac much as in open repair and clip this vessel.

Use of ultrasound allowed localization of the leak and identification of the artery for clipping.

Of course, what should have been a 30 minute procedure through a minilaparotomy became a two hour enterprise getting through scar tissue (not the first time encountering this after EVAR) while pushing away retroperitoneum. I recruited the help of general surgery to get extra hands, but the patient was well aware that there was a good chance of conversion. Patience won out as the artery was ultimately clipped and endoleak no longer seen on ultrasound.

I waited a year before putting this together as I wanted CT followup. The sac stopped growing and has shrunk a bit back to 5cm or so. There will be those who argue that nothing needed to have been done about this leak as it would have stopped growing eventually, but I would counter that an aneurysm sac that kept growing like the stent graft never went in is one demanding attention. The key role of duplex ultrasound cannot be minimized. We have an excellent team of vascular scientists (their title in Europe), and postop duplex confirmed closure of the leak.

Not seeing the leak anymore is a positive, but the stent graft remains.

The patient is quite satisfied having avoided laparotomy. His hospital stay was but a few days. During my conversations with our general surgeons who are amazing laparoscopists, that this would have been a nice case with the robot. That’s a post for another day.

The definition of success in this case and many EVAR’s plagued by type II leaks leaves me wondering. Excellent marketing of the word “minimally invasive” has subtly defined laparotomy as failure, and not just in vascular surgery. When costs and efficacy are reviewed as we come out of this pandemic, I suspect that open surgery will selectively have its day in the sun. A ten blade, a retractor, a 3-0 silk is so much more cost effective than five ports and disposable instruments. And a stent graft system?

Maybe I am just a dinosaur.