An aneurysm occurs when a vessel wall becomes weak and dilates. The aorta is the body’s major blood vessel. It transports blood from the heart to the head and arms and then down to the abdomen, legs, and pelvis. If the aorta’s walls become weak, they might inflate or flare out like a little balloon. When this occurs in the section of the aorta that runs through your belly, it is referred to as an abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA).
While AAAs may not often cause difficulties, a ruptured aneurysm can be fatal. As a result, if you are diagnosed with an aneurysm, your doctor will most likely want to constantly monitor you, even if they do not intervene immediately.
Types of Abdominal Aortic Aneurysms
AAAs are often classed according to their size and rate of growth. These two variables can aid in predicting the aneurysm’s health consequences.
AAAs that are small (less than 5.5 cm in diameter) or slow-growing generally have a lower risk of rupture than those that are larger or expand faster. Doctors frequently believe that monitoring them with routine abdominal ultrasounds is more prudent than treating them.
AAAs that are large (greater than 5.5 cm in diameter) or rapidly growing are far more likely to rupture than aneurysms that are small or slow-growing. Internal bleeding and other catastrophic problems might occur as a result of a rupture. The greater the aneurysm, the more probable it will require surgery to repair. Additionally, these aneurysms must be treated if they are causing symptoms or leaking blood.
Causes of Abdominal Aortic Aneurysms
Numerous factors might contribute to the deterioration of the aortic wall tissues, resulting in an AAA. The precise cause is unknown. However, atherosclerosis is believed to play a significant influence. Atherosclerosis is an accumulation of plaque in the inner lining of an artery. Plaque consists of fatty compounds, cholesterol, cellular waste products, calcium, and fibrin. The following are risk factors for atherosclerosis:
- male gender
- age greater than 60 years
- family history of heart conditions and diseases
- high blood pressure, especially if you’re between 35 and 60 years old
- high cholesterol or fatty buildup in the blood vessels (atherosclerosis)
- sedentary lifestyle
- trauma to your abdomen or other damage to your midsection
Symptoms of Abdominal Aortic Aneurysms
Around three out of every four abdominal aortic aneurysms are asymptomatic. An aneurysm may be discovered during a routine X-ray, computed tomography (CT or CAT) scan, or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Due to the fact that it may present with no symptoms, they are dubbed the “silent killer” since they might burst before being discovered.
The most frequently seen symptom of an AAA is pain. It can cause pain in the abdomen, chest, lower back, or groin area. The discomfort may be severe or mild. Sudden, acute back or abdominal pain may indicate that the aneurysm is going to rupture. This is a potentially fatal medical emergency.
AAAs may also produce a pulsating sensation in the belly, similar to a heartbeat. Its symptoms can mimic those of other medical diseases or disorders. Always consult your doctor for a diagnosis.
AAAs that have not burst are most frequently discovered through a scan or examination of your abdomen for another cause.
If your doctor suspects you may have one, they will palpate your stomach to determine whether it is rigid or contains a pulsating mass. Additionally, they may examine the blood flow in your legs or perform one of the following tests:
- CT scan of the abdomen
- abdominal ultrasound
- chest X-ray
- abdominal MRI
Treatment of Abdominal Aortic Aneurysms
Your doctor may perform surgery to repair or remove the aneurysm, depending on its size and precise location. This procedure can be performed either through open abdominal surgery or endovascular surgery. The type of surgery required will be determined by your overall health and the location of the dilated part of the vessel.
An open abdominal surgery procedure is used to remove damaged aorta sections. It is a more invasive procedure with a longer recovery period. If your aneurysm is very large or has already ruptured, open abdominal surgery may be necessary.
Endovascular surgery is a minimally invasive procedure that is less invasive than open abdominal surgery. It entails the use of a graft to reinforce the aorta’s weakened walls.
Your doctor may choose to monitor a small AAA that is less than 5.5 centimeters wide rather than perform surgery. Surgery carries risks, and most small aneurysms do not rupture.