Aortic Aneurysms

The aorta is the primary artery of your body that carries blood from your heart to your body.  When the aorta develops a dilation, the condition is known as an “aortic aneurysm”. If the aneurysm is left untreated and bursts, serious, and typically fatal, bleeding occurs.  Aortic aneurysms are most common in the abdomen, and these aneurysms are known as abdominal aortic aneurysms. Aneurysms may also happen in the chest, and these are known as thoracic aortic aneurysms.

High blood pressure and hardening of the arteries, known as “atherosclerosis”, causes the normally elastic walls of the aorta to weaken.  Over time, the weak area begins to stretch, and eventually the walls of the aorta bulge outward to create an aneurysm.

Am I at risk for aortic aneurysms? Learn More Close

Vanguard Vascular & Vein recommends aortic aneurysm screenings for men who are:

  • 65 and older with a history of smoking
  • 60 year of age with an immediate family member who has had an aneurysm, such as a mother, father, brother or sister

Other risk factors for aortic aneurysms include the following:

  • High blood pressure
  • Smoking
  • High cholesterol
  • Obesity
  • Emphysema
  • Atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries
  • Syphilis
  • Marfan syndrome
  • Trauma

Men who have never smoked and women have a lower overall risk for developing aneurysms but should be screened if they have a family history, or are experiencing symptoms that are related to aortic aneurysms.

What are the symptoms of aortic aneurysms? Learn More Close

As with many vascular conditions, aortic aneurysms do not always cause symptoms.  Patients may complain of discomfort or pain in the chest, back, or abdomen.  These symptoms can be ongoing or intermittent.   When the aortic aneurysm bursts, symptoms are more significant and include severe pain and bleeding, and it can quickly become fatal.  An aneurysm can also form blood clots, which have the potential to break off and lodge in other parts of your body causing a lack of blood flow to the affected area.

How are aortic aneurysms diagnosed? Learn More Close

Your physician will often start with an aortic artery duplex ultrasound to detect an aortic aneurysm.  Sometime, a computed tomography angiography (CTA) or magnetic resonance angiography (MRA) will be ordered to obtain further anatomical information about the aneurysm.

How are aortic aneurysms treated? Learn More Close

Smaller aortic aneurysms typically require only regular monitoring.  larger aortic aneurysms are typically treated through surgery.  Your surgical plan depends on your anatomy and the extent of the aneurysm.  The options that exist included open repair to remove and replace the damaged section of the aorta, or a less-invasive procedure know as an EVAR (endovascular aneurysm repair).

VIDEO: Treatment for Abdominal Aortic Aneurysms
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