An aortic aneurysm is a weakened blood vessel. They get their name because they occur most often in the aorta. The aorta is the main artery of the chest and abdomen. It carries blood from the heart to all parts of the body.
There are two types:
As the blood vessel’s wall weakens part of the blood vessel balloons. The aneurysm may grow and eventually rupture, or break open, if it is not diagnosed and treated.
Less than 25 percent of people will survive if their aneurysm ruptures.
It’s estimated that more than one million Americans are living with an abdominal aortic aneurysm and don’t even know it. That’s because they typically have no symptoms.
There are still some symptoms to be aware of, for both types of aneurysms. Let your doctor know right away if you experience:
An aneurysm may be diagnosed by physical examination in your doctor’s office but is more often diagnosed using advanced screening exams. These non-invasive exams may be conducted on an outpatient basis and may include any of the following:
These non-invasive exams show the location and size of the aneurysm which will assist your doctor in determining your best treatment option. Because aortic aneurysms may not have symptoms, anyone age 60 or older who has risk factors for developing an aortic aneurysm should consider regular screening.
Aneurysms that are smaller than two inches in diameter and do not cause symptoms may be monitored regularly using an ultrasound or CT scan, a practice called “watchful waiting.” People with small aneurysms and high blood pressure may be given medication to lower their blood pressure and reduce the risk of the aneurysm growing or rupturing. The size, location, symptoms and overall risk factors of the patient will determine if surgical treatment is necessary.
In the event that surgical treatment is necessary, patients may have two options for treating the aneurysms:
Your surgeon will determine the type of repair needed based on location and complexity of the aneurysm.