The largest blood vessel is your Aorta, which runs from your heart through your abdomen. When a section of a blood vessel becomes weakened and enlarged, it is known as an aneurysm. An Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm is an enlargement that occurs in the abdomen beneath the kidneys, and can be potentially life threatening if rupture occurs.
- Smoking or using tobacco products weakens vessel walls and increases the risk of developing a AAA.
- High blood pressure
- Atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries
AAA’s typically grow slowly, so some may not notice any symptoms (unless the aneurysm ruptures). Some might experience a pulsing sensation or mass in their abdomen, or pain in the back, side, or abdomen.
In many cases, AAA’s are discovered during routine medical tests as Ultrasounds, X-Rays, and MRI’s can detect enlargements in the Aorta.
Since a ruptured aneurysm can be life threatening, the goal is to prevent that from occuring. Small Aneurysms are usually monitored at regular intervals to determine if they are growing. If the aneurysm increases in size quickly, or becomes larger than 5cm, surgery may be advised.
Endovascular Surgery is a less invasive method used frequently by Vascular Specialists today. It involves threading a graft through an artery and your leg, and expanding that graft in place to reinforce the weakened aorta.
Although this method has shorter recovery times and risks, open surgery may be required in more difficult cases.
Would you like more information on Abdominal Aortic Aneurysms? Visit the Society for Vascular Surgery’s Patient Resources Section Here.