Abdominal Aneurysm – Everything You Need to Know

November 12, 2012

Abdominal Aneurysm - Everything You Need to Know

The aorta refers to the primary blood vessel, which sends blood into the body from the heart. Since the aorta is completely elastic, it can be filled up with blood when under high pressure. If the artery’s wall gets weak, though, an aneurysm might develop. In a nutshell, an abdominal aneurysm refers to a condition wherein the aorta’s lower part expands and pokes into the abdominal area.

Fortunately, an abdominal aneurysm can be discovered before it even produces any symptoms, like back pain. However, if it gets too big, it could rupture and cause fatal bleeding. Because of this, aneurysms need to be operated on as soon as possible.

Most common factors

There are various predisposing factors when it comes to an abdominal aneurysm, including smoking, genes, congenital defects, injuries, infections, hypertension, arteriosclerosis, and high cholesterol levels.

How to recognize

To find out if you have one, you will need to take an abdominal ultrasound and, if needed, get treatment as soon as possible. Overall, though abdominal aneurysms usually occur in men over the age of 60. Since the majority of these aneurysms don’t come with any symptoms, though, a lot of people who have them are completely oblivious to this fact. However, when aneurysms grow, they tend to bring about various symptoms, such as prolonged back pain, abdomen pain and groin pain; shock and a loss of consciousness due to bleed. Ruptured aneurysms will require immediate emergency treatment.

An abdominal aneurysm is usually detected on an x-ray while being tested for something else or during a regular physical exam. Once it is suspected, however, the following tests might need to be done to find out its size and location, as well as its treatment options: ultrasounds, CD scans, angiograms, and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

Treatment

If the aneurysm happens to be symptomatic or very big, it will require treatment. Overall, there are two surgical treatments that can be used on these aneurysms: open surgery and endovascular repair. Open surgery basically involves a surgeon opening up the body to get to the aneurysm and replacing the affected part of the aorta with a graft that will work in place of the old blood vessel. Open surgery is proven to work and has acceptable risks. However, its recovery period is usually long and patients might need to stay in the hospital for a week.

Endovascular repair, on the other hand, involves moving a tiny fabric tube with metal stents into the body to create a new channel for blood to flow through and eliminate the overall risk of rupture. Endovascular repair usually takes three hours to perform and patients usually do not have to stay in the hospital for more than two days. As with open surgery, though, there are some risks with this option, which is why patients need to visit their doctors on a regular basis for routine evaluation.

Now, even if your abdominal aneurysm is small, you will need to visit your doctor twice a year for an ultrasound or a CT to measure your aneurysm. During this time, your doctor will also review your symptoms. If surgery seems to be in the cards, you will also have to go through a comprehensive evaluation before your surgery, which will include a cardiology visit and a stress test.

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