Understanding Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm

An aneurysm is a “weakening” or “dilatation” in a part of an artery. An estimated 15,000 people die of ruptured abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) every year in the US. About 200,000 new cases of AAA are diagnosed every year. Most of these are diagnosed by tests that are done for unrelated reasons. 

The aorta is the main artery in your body that carries blood from the heart to everywhere else. There are branches, or smaller arteries, that arise off the aorta and supply your organs, legs and brain. Aneurysms can occur in those branch arteries, too.

The main danger with an aneurysm is it enlarging and bursting, which is a uniformly fatal event if not treated in time. An aneurysm also contains large amounts of thrombus, or clot, and can shoot it off to the organ it supplies and cause a loss in circulation.

Who Can Have AAA? 

They are more common in men of caucasian ethnicity, in smokers and with advanced age. Other associated factors are high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels and lung issues (COPD). Frequently, it runs in families. Rarely, it is seen in patients who have connective tissue disorders. 

How Is AAA Diagnosed?

If your doctor suspects you of having an abdominal aortic aneurysm, they will refer you for a simple ultrasound test. Based on the size and extent of the aneurysm, your doctor may refer you to a vascular surgeon.

Symptoms of AAA

A leaking aneurysm will lead to abdominal and back pain, dizziness and loss of consciousness.

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This column is sponsored by KSC Cardiology, and the opinions expressed herein may not reflect those of  CFHN or its advertisers.

Bio: Dr. Aparajita is a fellowship-trained vascular and endovascular surgeon. She is the co-author of 20-plus journal articles and publications and was recently nominated for an Inspiration Award by the American Medical Association. 

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