ABDOMINAL AORTIC ANEURYSM (AAA)

WHAT IS AN ABDOMINAL AORTIC ANEURYSM?

The abdominal aortic artery (AAA) is a large artery that extends from the breast bone to the navel (umbilicus) where it splits into the iliac arteries that supply blood to your lower extremities (legs).  The arorta has many branches that supply blood to the major organs of the abdomen.  

Abdominal aortic aneurysm is a bulge in the artery wall.  This is a serious condition that can have grave consequences.  Early detection and treatment before the aneurysm ruptures is essential. Most  AAA's are located below the arteries that go to the kidneys (renal arteries).   At least 66 percent of AAA's extend to one or both of the iliac arteries.

The normal size for an aorta is less than 3cm. When the aorta is enlarged to 3cm or larger, an aneurysm is suspected.

Aneurysms under 5cm wide usually do not rupture.  When an aneurysm reaches 6cm or higher, rupture is more likely.  The only way to monitor the aneurysm is by regular careful screening.

  
THERE ARE TWO TYPES OF ABDOMINAL AORTIC ANEURYSMS?      
  • Fusiform aneurysm is the most common AAA. It is an eliptical or spindle shaped enlargement of the vessel lumen (inside wall of the artery) that results from processes that weaken the wall of the aorta.

  • Saccular aneurysm is an enlargement that resembles a sac-like bulging on one side of the artery.

 
Are you at risk for an Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm?

NORMAL ABDOMINAL AORTA


ABDOMINAL AORTIC ANEURYSM


WHO IS MOST AFFECTED BY ABDOMINAL AORTIC ANEYRYSM?
  • Adults of both sexes

  • Men are five times more likely to be affected by AAA than women.

  • Contrary to common thought,  AAA's are NOT rare.  About 5 percent of men over the age of 60 will develop one.


WHAT IS THE CAUSE OF ABDOMINAL AORTIC ANEURYSMS?

The majority of AAA's, approximately 80 percent, are caused by atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries).  Plaque build-up can weaken the wall of the aorta.  As blood flows through the aorta, the pressure of the blood against the weakened wall causes a ballooning effect.  




WHAT ARE THE WARNING SIGNS & SYMPTOMS OF AN ABDOMINAL AORTIC ANEURYSM?
  • There are often NO warnings or symptoms prior to a rupture!  This why screening is so important!

  • Lower back pain (sometimes very severe).  You do NOT want to wait until this symptom occurs.  Rupture could be imminent!

  • Loss of appetite.  
  • Weight loss.
  • Pulsating mass in the abdomen.
Only 32 % of patients survive emergency surgery to repair a ruptured AAA!


ARE YOU AT RISK FOR AN ABDOMINAL AORTIC ANEURYSM?



HOW DO I KNOW IF I HAVE AN ABDOMINAL AORTIC ANEURYSM?


Ultrasound screening is a fast and highly accurate method to detect and measure an aneurysm. Early detection is the best way to avoid a devastating rupture.  


You DO NOT want to wait until your aneurysm ruptures.  Half of all people with an aneurysm will die within 5 years if not treated!  Ruptured abdominal aneurysms are the thirteenth cause of death in America.  This is a tragedy, since it is so easy and inexpensive to screen for.

A ruptured AAA causes immense bleeding which leads to shock and then death.  Early screening can discover aneurysms when they are small.  By carefully monitoring an aneurysm, your doctor can determine what course of action is best.  


TREATMENT FOR ABDOMINAL AORTIC ANEURYSM

If an abdominal aortic aneurysm is discovered, and surgery is indicated, surgeons will replace the diseased vessel with a synthetic graft (Dacron).  More recently, new minimally invasive procedures use methods similar to angioplasty to guide stents into place. These procedures are much easier to tolerate than the traditional open abdomnal surgery.



FAMOUS PEOPLE WHO HAVE DIED
FROM AN ABDOMINAL AORTIC ANEURYSM:


Lucille Ball
Albert Einstein
George C. Scott
Conway Twitty