An Australian first


Hugo was a healthy 79-year-old: or so he thought.

He was living an active, retired lifestyle in the Perth suburbs, when a couple of months back, he felt a dull pain in his lower back. Hugo assumed he had pulled a muscle.

The pain persisted for a few weeks, and Hugo decided to visit his GP, just to be sure it was a simple muscle strain. It was a doctor’s visit that may have saved his life.

Once his doctor received results from Hugo’s X-ray, things took a serious note very quickly. Hugo was diagnosed with an enlarged thoracic aorta due to a six-centimetre aneurysm in his abdomen.

He had acted just in time. If left untreated, the aneurysm may have burst which could have led to him bleeding to death quickly.

Although Hugo had little to no symptoms, the doctors at Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital moved quickly to treat him. Following an initial consultation with the Sir Charles Gairdner Vascular surgery team, he was admitted to hospital and scheduled for surgery within just five days.

Hugo had faith in the specialists at Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital, and trusted that the procedure would go well.

What Hugo didn’t realise at the time was that that he would be the first Australian to undergo a revolutionary new stent procedure.

Developed in the US, the sophisticated design is a gamechanger for stent surgery according to Vascular and Endovascular Surgeon, Dr Joe Hockley.

“Using generic stent designs from the past, the operation would have required more invasive and extensive surgery,” he explained.

“The calibre of deployment for the new design is much easier, so in Hugo’s case, we simply entered via two small incisions in the groin to depressurize the aneurism.

 “Recovery is much quicker and there is very little pain associated with the healing process.”

Made from a woven fabric covered alloy called nitinol, the stents are extremely flexible, and easier to deploy with a higher degree of accuracy.

They come in a range of lengths and diameters to suit an array of anatomy.

“So, in the case of smaller torn arteries from a car accident in children or young women for instance, the stents can be deployed with much more precision and much less trauma to the patient,” Dr Hockley said.

“Previous stents were significantly larger which meant we’d need make a larger incision through the abdomen to find the widest part of the artery before inserting the stent.”

That the Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital team were first in Australia to use this new technology is in keeping with the Hospital’s tradition of innovation in surgical procedures.

Hugo presented favourable anatomy and was a relatively straight-forward case for the Australian-first surgery according to Dr Hockley.

Hugo is immensely grateful to the Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital team.

“I know I was in excellent hands, and the whole team, from the nurses to all the doctors: they were wonderful,” Hugo said.

“I trust everyone in the surgical team. They always showed great knowledge, passion and respect and for that, I am very grateful.”