Abdominal aortic aneurysm is often called the “silent killer” due to its ability to go unnoticed for long periods of time. What’s more, most people don’t realize they have one until a rupture occurs. At that point, the estimated death rate jumps to over 50%. With such staggering statistics, it’s important to know what it is and what can be done about it.
Abdominal aortic aneurysm is when the aorta in the abdomen becomes weak and starts to bulge. It can develop quickly or slowly, potentially resulting in a rupture. Screenings are available to catch and track these aneurysms, as well as surgical treatments to heal them. Men age 65+ are at higher risk, although anyone can develop one. Symptoms are often minimal, so it’s important to be screened in order to receive proper care.
What Is Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm?
The aortic artery, or aorta, is the large artery that runs from your heart through the center of your chest and abdomen. It’s about the thickness of a garden hose and is essential for keeping blood flowing throughout your body.
The aorta provides blood to your:
An abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) is the bulging or ballooning of the aorta in the abdomen when its walls have become weak.
This condition can occur slowly over time or very quickly. While it often has no symptoms, an aneurysm that expands too quickly can result in a ruptured aneurysm (ruptured AAA). You can also experience tears in the wall of the aorta (aortic dissection), as well as internal bleeding which can be life-threatening.
Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm Treatment in Evansville, IN
Our team of board-certified and fellowship-trained vascular surgeons is here to serve Evansville and the tri-state area for their surgical needs. Many of our surgical staff have chosen abdominal aortic aneurysm surgery and treatment as special areas of interest, including:
Treatment doesn’t always begin with surgery. Instead, your surgeon may recommend getting an AAA screening to monitor the size of the aneurysm. These screenings involve using sound waves from abdominal ultrasound in our ICAVL accredited vascular lab.
Regular screenings help keep track of AAAs over the long term. They allow our team to work closely with your primary care physician to determine when it’s time for surgery. Aneurysms are generally considered ready for surgery once they’re on the verge of rupturing. At this point, your surgeon will schedule a time to surgically repair the aneurysm.
This will be through either open repair or endovascular surgery. Open repair (open abdominal surgery) involves creating a single large incision and replacing the damaged part of the aorta with a graft that’s sewn into place.
Endovascular surgery takes advantage of minimally invasive techniques that promote less bleeding and faster recovery. With this method, your surgeon inserts a small catheter into a leg artery and guides it to the aorta. A graft is placed at the weakened artery wall, expanded, and fastened into place. This strengthens the damaged portion of the wall of the aorta and helps prevent a future rupture.
Click here for tips on how to prepare and recover from abdominal surgery!
Anyone can experience an AAA. However, men aged 65 and older run a much higher risk than others. While the exact cause isn’t known, atherosclerosis seems to play an important role. It involves the buildup of plaque in the arteries, which is usually made up of fat, cholesterol, cellular waste, calcium, and fibrin. These substances cling to the walls of the aorta, making it difficult for blood to flow normally.
Factors associated with increasing the risk of atherosclerosis include:
- A family history of the condition
- Genetic predisposition
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
You can’t control certain issues such as family history and individual genetic factors. Fortunately, you can take steps to address many other risk factors for AAA. This can even help you manage other medical conditions such as high blood pressure.
To avoid AAA, make positive lifestyle changes such as:
- Losing weight
- Eating a healthy diet
- Stopping smoking
Taking these steps will help you avoid a medical emergency in the future.
Click here to learn more about why men age 65 and older should be screened for AAA!
Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm Symptoms
The majority of AAAs don’t have any readily apparent symptoms. Instead, they’re usually discovered in an X-ray, CT, CTA, or MRI scan while searching for something else. It’s often referred to as “the silent killer” for this reason.
However, pain is the main symptom if you experience any at all. You may feel it in your:
- Lower back
This pain can vary from dull to severe. Severe pain suddenly felt in the back may indicate a rupture is about to occur, so seek medical attention immediately if this happens to you. You may also experience a pulsing sensation in your abdomen similar to a heartbeat.
Symptoms for AAA can often look like those of other medical problems. Talk to your doctor about your symptoms and risk factors to see if you’re having issues with your aorta. They will be able to run tests to determine if an AAA is present and provide the treatment that you need.
Do you need treatment for your abdominal aortic aneurysm? Call us today at (812) 424-8231 or (800) 264-8231 to schedule your appointment!
AAA occurs when the aorta in the abdomen becomes weak and begins to bulge. It can happen quickly or slowly, with the risk of a rupture constantly increasing. You can be screened for AAA and there are surgical options available for treatment. While anyone can develop the condition, men age 65 and up are at the highest risk. AAA often has no symptoms, so it’s important to be screened so you can get treatment as soon as necessary.
Evansville Surgical Associates has been providing comprehensive and compassionate surgical care for over 50 years. Call us at (812) 424-8231 or (800) 264-8231. We are available from 8:00 am to 4:30 pm if you would like to schedule an appointment.