The ABC’s of AAA – Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm

An abdominal aortic aneurysm is a serious vascular condition that fortunately, is manageable with surgery. The aorta is the largest artery in your body, running from your heart through your abdomen and to the legs. Wear on this artery over time can cause a rupture, resulting in massive internal bleeding and pain. Here’s what you need to know about AAA.

The growth of an aneurysm in AAA is often slow and can go unnoticed. Medically, AAA can be categorized by an unnatural growth or bulge in the aorta, which is officially diagnosed through an MRI, CT, or ultrasound. Fortunately, it can also be detected during a routine medical exam.

In some cases, artery growth never reaches the point of bursting, but other times the growth is quick. On average, the most notable signs of AAA include a throbbing in the lower or middle part of the stomach near the navel, lower back pain, and tenderness in the chest. However, these symptoms can arise from a number of medical conditions, and therefore it is vital to schedule regular checkups with your provider to monitor and assess your conditions.

Risk Factors
There are a number of risk factors for AAA, but the two most common are family history and damage to the arteries through life choices and injury. Most commonly, ruptures in the aortic artery are seen more in white males over the age of 55. Many risk factors for other forms of artery disease can also be linked to a higher risk for AAA, including:

  • Smoking
  • History of clogged arteries
  • Previous issues with heart valves
  • History of artery infection
  • History of high blood pressure and cholesterol

Diagnosis & Treatment
As mentioned, abnormal activity in the aortic artery can be detected during a routine medical checkup. When a growth in the artery has been detected, medical experts recommend seeing your provider every 6-8 months to monitor the growth.

Should the artery rupture, patients experience sudden nausea, vomiting, trouble breathing & swallowing. When symptoms occur – sudden severe pain, nausea, etc – it is essential to seek medical treatment as soon as possible as a rupture can be fatal. Pay attention to the mentioned symptoms if you are diagnosed with AAA.

For the best treatment, providers advise early detection and monitorization of growth. From there, surgeons are then able to determine whether damaged tissue can be repaired through surgery. Both catheter-based surgery and open abdominal surgery can be used to replace the aorta. The right surgery for you will depend on your current health and the condition of your aorta.

If you are concerned over your risk of AAA, a vascular specialist can diagnose and determine how best to manage your condition. Frequently, a noninvasive ultrasound can definitively diagnose the condition. Contact MSA to learn about your options and whether you have this condition.