An aneurysm is a weakening of the artery wall that results in an expansion, ballooning or bulging of the artery. While they can occur in any vessel, they are most common in the aorta below the level of the kidneys, known as the infrarenal aorta. This type of aneurysm is known as an abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA).
AAAs are typically located in the abdominal region below the kidneys, as this is the weakest part of the aorta. Risk factors include smoking, family history, age, sex, COPD, hypertension, genetic causes and chronic kidney disease. As the weakness in the blood vessel expands from the pressure of blood flowing through it, the aorta enlarges, increasing the risk of rupture and causing a potentially life-threatening medical emergency.
As an aneurysm begins to grow, there are no obvious symptoms. In fact, most aneurysms are found by accident – usually through imaging tests obtained for a completely unrelated problem like kidney stones or back pain. Non-invasive screenings, such as ultrasound or CT, are becoming more common, helping to identify aneurysms earlier when there are more treatment options available.
Most aortic aneurysms are silent, but symptoms of rupture should not be ignored.
Symptoms of a rupture include:
- Severe pain in the abdominal or chest area
- Back pain
- Dizziness or passing out due to the sudden drop in blood pressure
Not every aneurysm rupture happens instantly – and some ruptures or tears can be gradual and occur over several hours or remain contained. However, they are still considered a medical emergency requiring prompt diagnosis and treatment. That’s why it’s important to seek help immediately if symptoms do arise.
- Age: The risk of developing an aneurysm increases as you age.
- Sex: Abdominal aortic aneurysms are most commonly found in men over the age of 60, especially in those who have a family history of the condition.
- Individuals with a family history: those with parent or sibling who experienced an aneurysm are more likely to develop the condition.
Georgia Heart Institute offers the full range of services to diagnose and effectively treat vascular disease, including abdominal aortic aneurysms (AAA). Our highly trained vascular surgeons will review your diagnostic tests to recommend the best treatment for your aneurysm. Depending on its size and location, your surgeon may decide to carefully monitor your condition at regular intervals or choose surgical repair.
Innovative, minimally-invasive endovascular options can be used to treat many individuals with AAA. The most common surgical treatment for AAA utilizes a minimally-invasive approach, where a covered stent graft is inserted through two small incisions in the groin. Once the stent graft is adequately positioned to exclude the aneurysm, it is deployed to join two healthy segments of the blood vessel, excluding the aneurysmal segment and stabilizing the vessel. The stent graft is then monitored over time at intervals to ensure sustained treatment of the aneurysm. Minimally-invasive procedures like this one typically mean a shorter hospital stay, fewer complications and a faster recovery.
Individuals who are not candidates for minimally-invasive surgery may require an open procedure to treat their aneurysm. In a traditional repair, surgeons make an incision in the abdomen and directly expose the diseased or abnormal section of the aorta. Once inside, they replace the diseased or abnormal segment with a prosthetic graft to strengthen the artery wall and repair the aneurysm.
Why Choose Georgia Heart Institute?
The highly trained vascular-endovascular surgeons at Georgia Heart Institute offer the most advanced treatment options for vascular disease. Each patient works directly with an experienced and fellowship-trained expert for their vascular care. Our goal is to provide exceptional care for people with vascular disorders, using the most innovative and effective techniques to provide the highest level of care.
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