Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm- the ‘Silent Killer’

July 11, 2012 8:23 pm

An abdominal aortic aneurysm is when a bulge in the aorta ruptures. The aorta is the most important vessel that comes from the heart; it passes through the abdomen and branches off to support the organs and then divides into the vessels going to the legs. Aortic aneurysms happen mostly in elderly people and are ten times more likely to occur in men. Many abdominal aortic aneurysms (AAAs) arise in association with complex vascular disease caused by an accumulation of greasy deposits on the vessel wall structure. Complications associated with abdominal aortic aneurysms include: aortic cracks, hypovolemic distress, arterial embolism, kidney failure, strokes and aortic dissection.

Common signs and symptoms
Most aneurysms do not produce signs or symptoms; they are discovered by a doctor during a routine check-up. The most common symptom, though, will usually be discomfort or pain in the middle of the abdomen. Later, the pain sensation can be severe and can be in the back or along the side. An aortic aneurysm has a tendency to obtain a large size. If it has reached a size of two inches and is not treated there is a good chance it will rupture within one year. If the aneurysm already has produced symptoms and is not eliminated, there is about a 75% chance that it will rupture and this will likely be fatal.
Another similar symptom we can mention is unexpected attacks of severe, mid-abdominal discomfort that regularly radiate to the backside. This pain cannot be eased simply by altering position, meaning that if you move and the pain stops it is highly unlikely you have a swelling in the aorta.

These aneurysms are commonly observed in a medical patient around sixty years-old and often in those with a history connected to high blood pressure or earlier registered atherosclerotic vascular illness.

Ultrasound of an aneurysm. The red line shows the bulge.

Ultrasound of an aneurysm. The red line shows the bulge.

Diagnosis
An aneurysm usually can be felt during a physical examination of the abdomen if it has bulged up to 2 inches. Obesity can make detection very difficult. Often, an x-ray of the ‘aorta abdomen’ can be most helpful in showing the calcium in the wall membrane of the aneurysm, which means it will show somewhat clearly.
Aneurysm can also be detected using ultrasound. This is an easy, painless and safe method which examines the aorta and to find out how broad it is and has a look at the arteries coming from it. Additionally, other organs and tissues in the abdomen can be seen so any lurking problems may be discovered.
A CT scan (computed tomography scan) may be used. These unique x-rays produce a high amount of date and scan precisely through the abdominal organs to see the aorta. This makes it easy to see fine details in the aorta and the vessels coming from it.

Abdominal aortic aneurysms condition may be mistaken as kidney stones simply because of the likeness inside and the nature of pains caused.

 Procedure regarding abdominal aortic aneurysm.
Therapy of abdominal aortic aneurysm is based upon the size of the aneurysm. If the aneurysm is significantly less than one and a half inches wide, surgical treatment is usually not needed. However, your GP will keep an eye on it very carefully for any increase in size. If an aortic aneurysm is smaller than two inches and does not produce symptoms, it may be enough for doctors to simply monitor it closely. If the aneurysm is producing symptoms or is larger than two inches, it must be removed because of the high risk that it will rupture, which is likely to be fatal. After careful consideration of all factors, including the risk of surgery, it is almost always recommended that an operation to remove the aneurysm is the best course of action. In the procedure, the surgeon makes a cut in the abdomen, takes away the aneurysm, and repairs the aneurysm using a synthetic patch called a graft. The surgical treatment has a very high rate of success. There is also an alternative method called endovascular grafting, which involves inserting a thin tube called a catheter through a groin artery into the abdominal aorta.

[N.B- The best source for more information is your local GP. This article is intended as an informative piece but it is not a medical authority and should not be taken as one. If you turn to the internet for further information, please do so sensibly and be aware of misinformation. Furthermore, if you do see symptoms which match ones you are experiencing it is important to avoid self-diagnosis as you may likely be entirely mistaken and seek the wrong treatment. This can be harmful. If you aren’t a trained medic, don’t behave like one. – Ed.] 

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