From an interview with
Dr. Leia Edenfield
McLeod Vascular Associates Seacoast
An aneurysm grows when a weak blood-carrying aorta with a weak wall grows like a balloon. One of the most potentially deadline is the Abdominal Aoritc Aneurysm.
Here is a summary of Dr. Edenfield’s comments:
An abdominal aortic aneurysm is an abnormal dilation (swelling) of the aorta, which is the largest blood vessel in the body that runs from the heart, down to the abdomen. It splits into two parts around the belly button and then feeds blood to your legs.
An abdominal aortic aneurysm, also known as a AAA, is dangerous because as the aorta gets bigger, it becomes more likely to rupture or burst. When that happens, that can be a life-threatening event and emergent surgical treatment is necessary in that case.
This dilation can happen as people age. Risk factors include smoking (the number one risk factor), as well as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and, sometimes, there is a genetic predisposition for it.
Abdominal aortic aneurysms are a very deadly problem. In the United States, more than 10,000 AAA-related deaths occur each year. As the aorta gets larger, for men greater than 5.5 centimeters and for women greater than five centimeters, the risk of rupture increases. Generally, at this size we recommend treating the aneurysm to prevent a rupture.
AAA’s are usually without symptoms. Most people do not know they have them. generally picked up on imaging that’s done for other reasons. An aneurysm may be discovered when a person is diagnosed for kidney stones or abdominal pain, unrelated to the AAA. It is recommended that men over the age of 65, who have ever smoked, get it at least one screening ultrasound, which is just an outpatient test to detect if there is an aneurysm present or not. And if there is an AAA, we recommend regular ultrasounds to monitor the size and growth of the aneurysm.
The most common way these days that we treat abdominal aortic aneurysm is with a minimally invasive procedure called an endovascular aortic repair or EVAR for short. The procedure involves small access points in the groins, just through the skin, where we are able to insert the stent and then open it inside to cover the aneurysm so that blood goes through the stent and not into the aneurysm sac.