Abdominal aortic aneurysms cause about 15,000 deaths each year. About 1 million people in the U.S. have them, but have no symptoms.

Simply put, an abdominal aortic aneurysm occurs when a large blood vessel that runs to the stomach and legs becomes enlarged and balloons out. If the vessel ruptures, it can be deadly.

At age 84, Robert Meckstroth knew his hip was hurting, but his doctor gave him a big surprise.

"[He] walked right over and took the x-ray and boom, there it was. He said, 'Hey look. This is important,'" Meckstroth said.

He had an abdominal aortic aneurysm and he's lucky doctors found it.

"No symptoms. Nothing," Meckstroth said.

An aneurysm is a weak area in the blood vessel. Left untreated, it can rupture and that's almost certain death.

"If they rupture, the vast majority of people, over 85 percent of the patients don't make it. They die," said Dr. Gary Ansel, of Riverside Methodist Hospital.

Meckstroth is one of only a handful of patients to be part of a trial for treating abdominal aortic aneurysms at Riverside.

Ansel performed a new procedure called Ovation to try and fix the aneurysm - without major surgery.

"Now we don't need an incision. We do a needle puncture, because we're working through small catheters," Ansel said. "Ex-NASA engineers came up with a space-aged polymer that fills the lining of the graft to fit the patient, so it can come in very small and the bulk of it is inserted and it hardens in about 20 minutes."

There is no general anesthesia and the procedure is done in an hour.

Most patients go home the next day with minimal recovery, instead of a lengthy hospital stay and rehabilitation.

"[I] haven't had any problem with it. Don't even know it's there," Meckstroth said. [I'm] very relieved, very happy that they found it, because that can end your life like that."

Riverside Methodist Hospital is part of the international trial hoping the new procedure can save lives.