The aorta is the largest artery in your body with the important job to carry oxygen-rich blood from your heart to your vital organs and extremities (arms/legs). An aneurysm is an enlargement of an artery wall and an abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) happens when the wall of the aorta becomes weak and starts to bulge.
An AAA is a very serious condition since the walls of the aorta may continue to enlarge and, if left untreated, could rupture. The larger the size of the aneurysm, the higher the risk for rupture, possibly causing severe internal bleeding and, potentially death.
Patients with abdominal aortic aneurysms are more likely to develop plaque formation with the aneurysm. These formations can break loose and travel to other areas of the body and block an artery. Blocked arteries, if left untreated, can mean severe limb pain or the eventual loss of limb.
Each year, nearly 200,000 people in the U.S. are diagnosed with an abdominal aortic aneurysm. If not detected and treated in a timely manner, roughly 15,000 of those cases may be severe enough to cause death. Unfortunately, a majority of patients who suffer from a ruptured AAA were not even aware that they had an aneurysm until it ruptured.
While most patients with aneurysms do not experience any symptoms, some patients may experience the following:
Because of the lack of obvious symptoms, many aneurysms are detected when a patient is being tested for unrelated reasons. An ultrasound and/or CAT scans is then used to confirm the presence and measure the aneurysm size. A treatment plan is created based on the size, location, and shape of the aneurysm.
Your healthcare provider will develop the best treatment option for you based on your medical history and the severity of the condition. Small aneurysms (less than 5 cm in diameter) are usually observed conservatively to determine the rate of growth. A vascular specialist will consider the surgical repair of an aneurysm if the following conditions are present:
The surgical repair options for abdominal aortic aneurysms include: