Ray Territ's Life Saved by Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm Screening

Jun 06, 2013, 17:46 ET from Kaiser Permanente

FONTANA, Calif., June 6, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- Seventy-five year-old Ray Territ was on the golf course when his feet started feeling abnormally heavy. Later on, in the doctor's office, he would tell his doctor he "just felt clumsy."

The strange sensation in his feet led Ray to make an appointment with his Kaiser Permanente family physician, Lisa Tran, MD. When Dr. Tran opened Ray's electronic health record, she saw his name had been automatically flagged by the system, based on his health history, for a one-time ultrasound screening test to check for abdominal aortic aneurysm, a condition that weakens the wall of the abdominal portion of the aorta. If left untreated, the aneurysm can burst, leading to a 90 percent chance of death.

After Dr. Tran explained the benefits of the screening, Ray obliged. When the ultrasound technician looked at his screening results, he found an alarming health threat: Ray had an abdominal aortic aneurysm double the size of those that normally require surgery.

Ray faced a serious situation. The fact that his abdominal aorta was so large meant that it was in danger of rupturing. Since half of all patients who suffer from a burst abdominal aortic aneurysm die before they reach the hospital, detection was the key to his survival.

The technician immediately sent his screening results to Kaiser Permanente heart surgeon Majid Tayyarah, MD. That same day, Dr. Tayyarah stood in front of Ray, explaining the need for surgery.

Many adults are unaware of the dangers of abdominal aortic aneurysm and the factors that contribute to it. "It's a weakness in the aorta from extra pressure over time," explained Dr. Tran. "If you think about a garden hose, and how a garden hose as it gets older and you keep watering the lawn with it over time, there's a little area of weakness."

Some people are more at risk than others: chronic health conditions and some lifestyle choices play a role in developing an abdominal aortic aneurysm. Diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol, a family history of cardiovascular disease and smoking can all be contributing factors.

The onslaught of new information and complicated medical procedures were a lot for Ray to process. But Dr. Tayyarah, sensing Ray's unease, reassured his patient that they would get him through the surgery and into recovery. Ray recalled those comforting words. "Dr. Tayyarah said, 'I'll take care of you,' " he remembered. "When he said that, I felt good. And we went into the operating room, had the operation, no problems."

Because he was flagged for the ultrasound by Kaiser Permanente's electronic health record, Ray fared well. Unfortunately, most adults who suffer from a rupture of their abdominal aorta die before they reach the hospital. There are, however, lifestyle changes we can all make to reduce the risk factors, such as adopting a heart-healthy or low-fat diet, exercising, quitting smoking and managing chronic illnesses.

Today, Ray is fully recovered and back on the golf course. "Dr. Tran and Dr. Tayyarah — they're my heroes."

Watch Ray's story on Kaiser Permanente's Care Stories blog

Learn more about abdominal aortic aneurysms from Lisa Tran, MD

Launched in July 2011, Care Stories is a collection of first-person video narratives from Kaiser Permanente members talking about their own care in their own words, unscripted and uncompensated.

About Kaiser Permanente
Kaiser Permanente is committed to helping shape the future of health care. We are recognized as one of America's leading health care providers and not-for-profit health plans. Founded in 1945, our mission is to provide high-quality, affordable health care services and to improve the health of our members and the communities we serve. We currently serve more than 9.1 million members in nine states and the District of Columbia. Care for members and patients is focused on their total health and guided by their personal physicians, specialists and team of caregivers. Our expert and caring medical teams are empowered and supported by industry-leading technology advances and tools for health promotion, disease prevention, state-of-the-art care delivery and world-class chronic disease management. Kaiser Permanente is dedicated to care innovations, clinical research, health education and the support of community health. For more information, go to: kp.org/newscenter.

Contact: Farra Levin
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SOURCE Kaiser Permanente