An aneurysm occurs when an artery wall becomes weakened, and the pressure of blood flow stretches it thin. The stretching results in a fragile bulge in the artery that, if ruptured, can lead to fatal internal bleeding. Aneurysms most often occur along the aorta. Abdominal aortic aneurysms are usually small and don’t cause many noticeable symptoms. As a result, “15,000 people die from abdominal aortic aneurysms” each year.
Due to the difficulty in spotting the symptoms, it is important for patients with risk factors to be hypervigilant. Patients with a family history of abdominal aortic aneurysms are twelve times more likely to develop one themselves. Smokers are at increased risk as well as patients who suffer from high blood pressure or atherosclerosis, the hardening of arteries. Men are also more likely to develop an abdominal aortic aneurysm than women. Anyone who has these risk factors should consult with a doctor to determine a plan of care that will help to detect the onset of an abdominal aortic aneurysm.
Research shows that screening for abdominal aortic aneurysms can improve patient outcomes in targeted groups. A study conducted by the US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) found that screening men and women between the ages of 65 and 75 who have a history of smoking can help diagnose asymptomatic abdominal aortic aneurysms with “moderate certainty.”
While most patients present without any symptoms, some patients can have somewhat ambiguous symptoms along with their abdominal aortic aneurysm. These symptoms of aortic aneurysms include abdominal pain, hardening of the abdomen, and pulsing in the abdomen.
If an abdominal aortic aneurysm ruptures, however, the patient will experience a cascade of concerning symptoms. Most notably, the patient will have severe abdominal pain that can extend to the back, groin, and legs. Patients can also experience dry mouth, dizziness, nausea and vomiting, and shock. Due to the internal bleeding associated with a rupture, the patient can also have a low blood pressure as circulatory blood volume plummets.
Large abdominal aortic aneurysms that exceed five centimeters and those that have ruptured require surgery. Only about 20% of patients who experience a rupture survive, with emergency surgery the only viable treatment option. These types of abdominal aortic aneurysms are treated with an open repair, and require a hospital stay of at least five days.
Smaller abdominal aortic aneurysms necessitate a less invasive approach. Oftentimes, a stent can be placed to support the aorta and reduce the pressure on the aortic walls. Most often, this allows the aorta to heal and prevents advancement in the condition to a rupture. This procedure requires a shorter hospital stay and more favorable outcomes since a rupture was avoided.
The surgeons at South Valley Vascular are experts in the treatment of abdominal aortic aneurysms. Our innovative treatment plans and experienced surgeons are here to help restore your good health. Visit our website to learn more about abdominal aortic aneurysms and schedule a consultation.