Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm
When a weak area of the abdominal aorta expands or bulges, it is called an abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA). The pressure from blood flowing through your abdominal aorta can cause a weakened part of the aorta to bulge, much like a balloon. Just as a balloon can burst when it gets too large, so can the aorta, with potential catastrophic consequences.
Symptoms and Signs of AAA
Most AAA’s are silent and do not cause symptoms. These may be discovered during a routine examination or as part of a test performed for another condition. Occasionally patients may feel abdominal or back pain. In some cases, this may be a sign of an impending rupture. If you have a known AAA and experience abdominal, back or side pain, you should contact your physician immediately.
If your aneurysm bursts, you may suddenly feel intense weakness, dizziness or pain, and you may eventually lose consciousness. This is a life-threatening situation, and you should seek medical attention immediately.
Risk factors include:
- Being a male older than 60 years
- Having an immediate relative who has had AAA
- High blood pressure
Your risk of developing AAA increases as you age. AAA is more common in males than in females.
Your physician may find the AAA on a routine physical examination. If your vascular surgeon suspects this life threatening condition, he or she will order one or more of the following diagnostic tests:
- Abdominal ultrasound
- Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MR)
- Computed Tomography (CT) scan
Depending on the size, your vascular surgeon may choose a wait and see approach, with regular checkups to monitor the growth of the aneurysm. Once an aneurysm reaches a certain size or if symptoms develop, your vascular surgeon may recommend surgery. There are two types of surgeries your vascular surgeon may recommend:
- Traditional open AAA repair
- Endovascular aneurysm repair: Surgery is recommended as the only way to definitely treat AAA.
Where to go from here?Next Topic: Aortic Dissection
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