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Sarah's aortic dissection patient story

Patient Pioneer: Sarah, pictured here with her surgeon, Mr. Jorge Mascaro, is the first patient in the UK to have an Aortic repair using the new Thoracoflo™ hybrid graft from Terumo Aortic. 

Sarah's aortic dissection patient story

On January 11th 2024, Aortic Dissection and Marfan Syndrome patient, Sarah Nuttman became the first UK recipient of a new custom-made hybrid Aortic graft from Terumo Aortic for the treatment of thoracoabdominal aortic aneurysm. Here, 34 year old Sarah shares her experience.

"When it comes to aortic surgery, I’m a bit of a veteran. I inherited the connective tissue disorder Marfan Syndrome from my father and was diagnosed from birth. My childhood included regular appointments with various medical professionals, including a cardiologist. By age 13, my aortic valve and root were in bad shape and I had my first major open heart surgery to fit a mechanical valve and replace my enlarged aortic root at Great Ormond Street Hospital. I bounced back from the surgery, even returning to school in just 10 days! I quickly got the hang of anticoagulation therapy and continued to see my cardiologist regularly.

Despite the close monitoring and medication, I suffered an acute Type B Aortic Dissection at the age of 22. The dissection was medically managed for a couple of years, but in 2013 an aneurysm in my descending thoracic aorta reached a size where surgical intervention was recommended. In 2016 I went under the knife again at the Queen Elizabeth hospital (QE), Birmingham, receiving a Frozen Elephant Trunk (FET) to repair my aortic arch and descending thoracic Aorta. 

So, when the time came in 2023 for a thoracoabdominal aortic aneurysm to be fixed, I felt that I had a good idea of what to expect and how I would feel afterwards. At the initial consultation, my wonderful surgeon Mr Jorge Mascaro mentioned a new technique being used for thoracoabdominal Aortic repairs. The Thoracoflo™ hybrid device is made bespoke to each individual and is designed to reduce the risk of the complications associated with the traditional use of an open thoracotomy and extracorporeal circulation in patients like me.

Through my own research online and with the support of the national patient charity Aortic Dissection Awareness UK & Ireland, I familiarised myself with Thoracoflo™, while an international surgical team assessed my suitability for the technique. When they confirmed that I would be the first UK patient to receive one, it was pretty mind-blowing, to say the least! The patient charity even put me in touch with a Thoracoflo™ patient in Germany who was one of the first to have the operation. We had a lovely chat on Zoom and I was able to talk to someone who really understood what I was facing, which helped calm my nerves. 

The day before my surgery, I was visited by Mr. Mascaro and Prof. Dr. Sabine Wipper, Chief of Vascular Surgery at University Hospital, Innsbruck, Austria, who developed the Thoracoflo™ product with Terumo Aortic and performed the first-ever operations. Prof. Dr. Wipper flew over from Innsbruck to assist Mr. Mascaro and the team in the first UK procedure. 

On the day of my operation, I was prepped for surgery, gowned up and donned some very elegant compression socks. At around 9am I said goodbye to my partner and was taken to theatre. In the anaesthetic room, I was fitted with various cannulas and monitoring devices and the last thing I remember was the kind face of one of the team telling me ‘We’ll take good care of you’. 

In what felt to me like a blink of an eye, I was coming round in ITU. In fact, the surgery had taken around 11 hours and a residual bleed had meant a second trip to theatre the following day. After a few days on ITU, I was moved to a ward and was up and about walking the corridors. 

While no major surgery is easy, the benefits of the new procedure were almost immediately obvious to me. Having not been on bypass, my mind and lungs were clearer than after any of my previous surgeries. The incision was only abdominal, so moving around was less difficult and monitoring the wound has been easier.

Two months on, I have made a good recovery. I am driving again and I am well enough to be attending the Society for Cardiothoracic Surgery Annual Meeting in Wales, where I’m looking forward to hearing Mr. Mascaro present my case - the 1st UK Thoracoflo™ - to his fellow surgeons.

I’d like to say a big thank you to Mr. Mascaro, Prof. Dr. Wipper, the QE team and Terumo Aortic for their skill and innovation that made this possible. Today is a Good Day!"

Sarah's aortic dissection patient story