An abdominal aortic aneurysm, also known as AAA or stomach aneurysm, is a condition in which the main artery supplying blood to the belly, pelvis, and legs becomes enlarged and bulges out. This weak spot in the artery wall is at risk of rupturing and causing severe bleeding. If you are concerned that you may have an abdominal aortic aneurysm, it is important to seek medical attention right away. In this article, we will discuss the symptoms and treatment options for abdominal aortic aneurysms.
Your aorta is the big vessel at the end of your heart’s aortic valve. It transports oxygen-rich blood from your heart to the rest of your body by traveling through your chest, where it’s known as the thoracic aorta, and into your abdominal cavity, where it’s known as the abdominal aorta. The abdominal aorta then divides into several arteries that carry blood to your legs and feet.
Is Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm a Common Disease?
Although abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) is not as well-known as some other diseases, it is extremely prevalent. In reality, approximately 200,000 individuals in the United States are diagnosed with AAA each year.
Furthermore, AAA is the 10th most common cause of male mortality over the age of 55. This may be owing in part to the fact that early indicators and symptoms of AAA are frequently faint and readily overlooked.
Because of these factors, it’s critical for individuals to be aware of the dangers of AAA and to visit a doctor on a regular basis. Despite its gravity, AAA may be treated successfully.
Symptoms of Abdominal Aortic Aneurysms
The majority of people with AAA do not have symptoms until the aneurysm is on the verge of bursting. Signs of AAA can include:
- Back, leg, or abdominal pain that does not go away
- A pulsating feeling in your belly
- Clammy, sweaty skin
- Fast pulse rate
- Nausea and vomiting
- Shortness of breath
If you experience any of these signs, it’s critical to get medical attention right away as a ruptured AAA is a medical emergency.
How Are Abdominal Aortic Aneurysms Diagnosed?
Unruptured AAAs are frequently discovered during examinations or tests for other health problems by healthcare practitioners since they don’t usually produce symptoms. The following imaging scans may reveal an AAA:
Abdominal ultrasound: An abdominal ultrasound is a painless, quick examination that produces real-time images of the insides of your abdomen using sound waves. On abdominal ultrasound, your doctor may be able to detect an aneurysm.
Computed tomography angiography (CTA): If your doctor detects an aneurysm on ultrasound, they may perform a CTA. A contrast dye is injected before a CT scan to produce pictures of the inside of the body. Angiography aids in identifying the precise area, size, and severity of the aneurysm.
Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm Treatment
Treatment for AAA is based on the size of the aneurysm. Aneurysms less than five centimeters in diameter have a low risk of bursting and do not need to be treated immediately.
Your doctor may advise “watchful waiting,” which entails getting ultrasounds every few months to ensure the aneurysm hasn’t grown, adopting a healthy lifestyle like exercising and eating a balanced diet, avoiding alcohol, and maintaining a healthy weight. Smoking and high blood pressure have both been shown to increase the rate of growth of an AAA.
Once an aneurysm forms, there is no known treatment that can prevent it from growing. The aim of the strategies detailed above is to keep your aneurysm from expanding and to identify which individuals have a high risk of rupture, suggesting that they would benefit from surgery to repair their AAA.
Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm Surgery
Aneurysms that are larger than five centimeters in diameter or that are threatening to burst to require surgical treatment. Depending on the size, position, and severity of your aneurysm, your doctor may recommend one of the following:
- Open surgery: Your surgeon makes an incision in your tummy in order to access your abdominal aorta. They stitch a graft (tube composed of a strong, man-made material) from the healthy aorta above to aneurysm to healthy blood vessels below the bulging section of the aorta. The grafted portion bypasses the blood flow around the aneurysm and prevents it from bursting. After open surgery, you will be in the hospital for four to ten days. It might take months to recuperate after this procedure.
- Endovascular aneurysm repair (EVAR): It is a minimally invasive aneurysm repair technique. A surgeon makes a small incision in your groin and inserts a catheter (thin, flexible tube) into an artery with X-ray guidance. They thread the catheter up to the site of the aneurysm using X-ray guidance. An expandable stent is inserted into your aorta creating a new pathway for blood inside the aneurysm and preventing rupture. You will be in the hospital for one to two days following EVAR. Recovery time is shorter than that of open surgery
It’s critical to follow up with your surgeon for surveillance of your repaired aorta after either type of aneurysm repair. Ultrasound or CT can be used for this as well.
How To Prevent Abdominal Aortic Aneurysms?
AAA is difficult to avoid sometimes, especially if you have a family history of the disease. However, if you experience any symptoms, you should immediately contact your doctor. Early detection and appropriate therapy may be able to prevent the aneurysm from growing or bursting.
You may also control many of the risk factors by taking actions in these areas:
- Quitting smoking
- Exercising and eating a balanced diet
- Avoid drinking too much alcohol
- Keep your blood pressure under control
Book Your Consultation!
Lawrence Schmetterer, M.D., F.A.C.S., is a board-certified cardiovascular thoracic surgeon who has been practicing medicine for over 34 years in Youngstown, Austintown, Boardman, and Salem, Ohio, with hospital privileges at all of the region’s major hospitals.
Dr. Schmetterer is an expert on thoracic, arterial, venous, and mediastinal conditions.
If you experience any symptoms, you should visit a doctor as soon as possible since a ruptured AAA is a medical emergency.