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What You Need to Know About Abdominal Aortic Aneurysms

An abdominal aortic aneurysm is a potentially serious medical condition. If you notice any of the following symptoms, visit your doctor immediately.

The largest blood vessel in the body, the aorta extends from the heart to the abdomen. If the portion of the aorta located in the lower belly swells, it becomes an abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA). Should the aneurysm rupture, it could cause dangerous internal bleeding. 

Because a small aneurysm rarely causes noticeable symptoms, AAA is often uncovered when a patient undergoes imaging tests for another condition. Severe abdominal, back pain, or a throbbing sensation in the abdomen may signal the aneurysm has ruptured, meaning the patient requires immediate medical attention.

The exact cause of AAA has yet to be determined, although there are several known risk factors. These include smoking, a family history of aneurysms, hypertension, and high cholesterol. Men in their 60s and people who’ve injured their abdomen are also at a greater risk. An inflammation of the aorta due to atherosclerosis (fatty deposits in the arteries) increases the chance of AAA, as well. 

If you have any of the following risk factors, it’s important to discuss prevention tips and treatment options with your doctor.

How to Prevent AAA

Smoking is a major risk factor for AAA. The more you smoke, the more damage you’re doing to your arteries. Weakened arteries are more likely to enlarge and possibly rupture — so if you smoke, try to quit as soon as possible. Managing high blood pressure and cholesterol with medication further lowers your risk of AAA. Exercising, eating a heart-healthy diet, and reducing stress can also prevent the condition. 

Male smokers between the ages of 65 and 75 may be advised to have an abdominal ultrasound to screen for AAA. Men in the same age group who have never smoked but have a family history of aneurysms should also undergo a screening test.

Treatment Options

If AAA is found, your treatment options depend on the size of the aneurysm and whether you’re experiencing any uncomfortable symptoms. Asymptomatic, small aneurysms less than 5.5 centimeters wide don’t require surgical intervention; instead, your doctor will regularly monitor the aneurysm’s size to determine if it’s growing.

Aneurysms 5.6 centimeters or larger that are growing, leaking, or causing significant symptoms will need surgery. In open abdominal surgery, the surgeon removes the aorta section where the aneurysm is located, and replaces it with a synthetic tube. This type of surgery is more invasive and requires a month to fully recover.

A less invasive procedure is an endovascular aortic aneurysm repair. Using two small incisions, a vascular specialist places a stent at the site to reinforce the aorta and prevent a rupture. 

Your Vascular Health is Important to Us

At Siragusa Vein & Laser, we treat vascular disorders like AAA. In fact, we were one of the first vein centers in the region to perform endovascular aortic aneurysm repair. Using the latest diagnostic and therapeutic techniques, we are able to pinpoint the source of your vascular disease and recommend treatment options. We care about your vein health and will be there every step of the way to ensure a successful outcome. Contact us today for an appointment.

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