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Stopping the 'silent killer' -- abdominal aortic aneurysm



David Kelley believes making a doctor’s appointment for sore legs likely saved his life.

“I went to the doctor because my calves hurt, and (Dr. Griffin Bicking) found an abdominal aortic aneurysm above my belly button,” said Kelley, 64, of Kuttawa. “I’m lucky I came in. The aneurysm was 8 centimeters – extremely large.”

Abdominal aortic aneurysm, also known as AAA, is the 13th leading cause of death in the U.S., accounting for more than 15,000 deaths each year, according to the Society for Vascular Surgery. It is referred to as the “silent killer” because most people don’t know they have it until it’s too late when it ruptures.

An aneurysm in the abdominal aorta, the large artery running through the main trunk, occurs when a weak portion expands. The pressure from blood flowing through the aorta causes its weakened part to bulge, much like a balloon.

Griffin Bicking, D.O., a vascular surgeon at Baptist Health Paducah, inserted an endovascular stent graft, a man-made tube, inside the damaged aorta to prevent it from rupturing.

“I had no pain after the surgery,” said Kelley, who owns the Shirt Shack in Grand Rivers. “Dr. Bicking did a great job. I had the surgery one morning, and the next day I was home.”

Risk factors include smoking, a family history of an aortic aneurysm and high blood pressure, Dr. Bicking said.

Dr. Bicking and his partner, Joseph Mayo, M.D., treat vascular disease, any condition that affects your circulatory system, such as carotid artery blockages and peripheral artery disease.

“In the growing population of Baby Boomers, vascular disease is much more prevalent than it has ever been,” Dr. Bicking said. “Here in the South, there is a lot of vascular disease having to do with obesity, diet and smoking.”