Less invasive aortic aneurysm surgery will spare Windsor patients from pain, travelling out of region


A less invasive surgery at Windsor Regional Hospital is cutting down travel, surgery and recovery time for patients diagnosed with an aortic aneurysm. 

The aorta is the main vessel that carries blood from the heart to the rest of the body. An aneurysm is when the walls of that vessel stretch, which can lead to a tear that leaks blood or, in some cases, it can completely burst. 

If the aorta breaks, it can be fatal. 

“We’re really excited about this program here in Windsor,” said Dr. Maher Sabalbal, a vascular surgeon at Windsor Regional Hospital.

Sabalbal was joined by some members of his team at Windsor Regional Hospital on a Zoom call Wednesday to describe the surgery. Since October, when the program launched, the hospital said it has performed more than 20 of these surgeries. 

Traditionally, Windsor Regional Hospital would treat patients with an aortic aneurysm through an intense four to five hour surgery that involved opening up the patient through a large cut in their abdomen, according to Sabalbal. 

Afterwards, patients would spend eight to 10 days in the hospital and need intensive care unit support, said the hospital’s vice-president of peri-operative surgery Rosemary Petrakos.

She added that it would also take people months to recover. 

But, the hospital has now invested in new tools and training to allow it to be one of few in Ontario that can offer patients a less invasive form of the surgery.

According to Sabalbal, this surgery involves making two small cuts in the groin area and using an ultrasound camera to guide surgeons to repair the aneurysm. 

Seven people in a Zoom video screenshot.
Surgeons and hospital leaders joined a Zoom call Wednesday to speak about the new procedure. Eugene Krawchuk, top middle, is 81 years old and he had the surgery March 1. (Jennifer La Grassa/CBC)

The surgery takes about two hours to complete, with patients returning home after a few days and making a full recovery in two to three weeks. 

Eugene Krawchuk, 81, just had the procedure done on March 1 and was out of the hospital two days later. 

“I feel very good,” Krawchuk said on Wednesday’s Zoom call.

“I never encountered any pain, I only had some slight discomfort in the areas where the cuts were made in my groin,” he added.

High need for this type of surgery: WRH surgeon

Windsor Regional Hospital’s vascular surgeon Dr. Sowmil Mehta said they decided to bring this program to the region because the “need is high.”

He added that aortic surgery can be some of the most complex for both doctors and patients. But this strategy, he said, will ease the process. 

“It’s a big difference in terms of the pain involved, the wound management … the burden on family. There’s a lot of issues that we think have improved [from this less invasive type of surgery],” he said. 

Typically, patients who weren’t “fit for the open surgery” would receive the less invasive procedure outside of the region in London or Toronto. 

“Staying close to home is important, especially when somebody has to be in the hospital, not only for the patient but also for the family,” said Mehta. 

Sabalbal added that they are hoping they can stop sending patients out of the region altogether and expand the program so that Windsor Regional is a referral hub to treat these cases. 

Mehta said the hospital started planning for a surgery like this in 2008, but it finally got organized in the last two years. 

He said it takes a while to put together a program like this, including training the staff and getting the right equipment. 


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