If a bulging aortic artery bursts, a person can die in minutes. Finding and repairing the dangerous abdominal aortic aneurysm is literally a life-saving procedure, as explained by McLeod Vascular Surgeon Eva Rzucidlo, MD:
Here are highlights of Dr. Rzucidlo’s explanation:
The aorta is the largest blood vessel in your body and it carries the blood from the heart out to your head, arms and legs. An abdominal aortic aneurysm is a ballooning of this main blood vessel in your belly. These abdominal aortic aneurysms typically appear below your kidneys.
An abdominal aortic aneurysm is dangerous because it is a weakening of the wall of the main blood vessel in your body. Once that wall becomes too weakened, it can burst. The hemorrhage most likely will lead to death.
There are more than 10,000 deaths per year from ruptured abdominal aortic aneurysms. These aneurysms are very difficult to find and are typically not discovered during a general physical exam. Making them more dangerous is the fact that most people who have one, don’t have any symptoms and no idea they actually have an aneurysm.
Men are most at risk for abdominal aortic aneurysms with a four to five times greater chance of suffering an aneurysm than a woman. These aneurysms don’t occur typically for young people. Generally, people over the age of 65 should be screened for aneurysms, especially if they have a family history of aneurysms, smoke, have high blood pressure or blockages in their arteries.
There are no medications to make these aneurysms regress or to strengthen the wall of the blood vessel. Aneurysms are generally treated by surgery. A stent is placed within the aneurysm to allow for blood flow from the heart and down into the legs. The stent enables blood flow and takes pressure off the bulging artery, thereby, eliminating risk of rupture.
In the past, abdominal aortic aneurysms were only fixed with large incisions and replacement of the blood vessel with a plastic tube. However, many years ago, a newer procedure called Endovascular Aneurysm Repair was invented. This procedure allows for us to minimally invasively treat these abdominal aortic aneurysms in a much safer way. Most of these procedures can be performed with two small incisions in the groin area. Using X-ray imaging, we can see where to implant the stent. For most people who have a normal blood vessel below their kidney arteries, we can place a traditional endovascular aneurysm repair. And for most of these procedures, the patients can go home the next day.