In Memory of Dr. Roy Greenberg

Cleveland Clinic remembers a pioneer in vascular surgery

Dr. Roy Greenberg

A memorial service to honor Dr. Roy Greenberg will be held on January 11, 2014 at 1:00 pm at the InterContinental Hotel (9801 Carnegie Avenue, Cleveland, OH)

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Cleveland Clinic is sad today. We lost a great friend and valued member of our staff. Roy Greenberg, MD, was a vascular surgeon, teacher and innovator. He had more than 50 patents. He helped usher in a new era of minimally invasive treatment for deadly aortic aneurysms. He challenged patients, colleagues and trainees to be their best. He died of cancer at age 49.

Dr. Greenberg made his impact in the field of endovascular aortic repair (EVAR). This technique was developed at Cleveland Clinic in the 1970s. But it didn’t start to take off until the 1990s. Up until then, the standard treatment for aortic aneurysms was open surgical repair – a massive operation that left many old and frail patients on the sidelines. EVAR is more gentle. It uses a wire to deliver a narrow device up through the blood vessels to the site of the aneurysm. This device, called an endograft, is a collapsible sheath made of wire and synthetic fabric. It is expanded inside the aneurysm and left there to provide a new conduit for blood.

When Dr. Greenberg arrived at Cleveland Clinic in 1999, EVAR was taking off. But not everybody agreed that EVAR was ready for prime time. Dr. Greenberg studied and evaluated the technique. He worked with biomedical engineers to develop new kinds of endografts – endografts with branches, windows, and other features to make them suitable for a variety of anatomies. He made endografts that can be attached to other endografts to repair the entire aorta and its branches. Much of his work involved aneurysms up close to the heart itself, in the aortic arch, where branching is complex and the whole anatomy is stressed by the motion of the heart and lungs.

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EVAR is gaining greater acceptance every day. Eventually, open surgical treatment of aortic aneurysms – with all its risks, enormous incision, and long recovery – will be rare. Thousands of people will owe their longer lives and better health to Dr. Greenberg and innovators like him who have done so much to perfect this technique.

He won prizes and recognition for his innovations, including the 2012 Cleveland Clinic Sones Innovation Award. Most importantly, he won the respect, admiration and affection of all who knew and worked with him. “Roy was a clinician and an engineer, and it was the melding of those two things that allowed him to really push forward the field of endografting for complex aortic disease,” says Bruce Lytle, MD, chairman, Miller Family Heart & Vascular Institute.

“Roy looked at things and thought about things in ways the rest of us didn’t,” adds Daniel Clair, MD, chairman of the Department of Vascular Surgery. “There’s no other person I’ve known who’s had that thought process for getting things from his mind into patient use and for enabling patients to really benefit from his innovation.”

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