An aortic aneurysm is a weakened and bulging area in the aorta—one of the body’s largest blood vessels that runs through the center of the body. Aneurysms can develop anywhere along the aorta, but they occur most frequently in the abdominal section. Because the aorta carries so much of the body’s blood, a ruptured aortic aneurysm can cause life-threatening bleeding.
Warning signs of Abdominal Aortic Aneurysms (AAA)
Most people have no symptoms at the time an AAA is discovered. Many AAAs are detected by tests conducted for unrelated reasons. People who do experience symptoms describe:
- A pulsing feeling in the abdomen
- Unexplained, severe pain in the abdomen or lower back
- If you experience these symptoms, call 911 immediately.
- Men over age 55
- Women over age 65
- Family history of AAA
- High blood pressure
- Other forms of blood vessel disease
Generally, an ultrasound, MRI or a CT scan is used to diagnose AAA. If you have questions about AAA, or your risk of AAA, talk to your healthcare provider.
When appropriate, we recommend minimally invasive treatments. We always strive to use the most effective, least invasive procedure possible. Advantages of minimally invasive procedures include:
- Smaller incisions
- Less trauma, blood loss and pain
- Fewer complications
- Shorter hospital stay
- Faster recovery times
Your doctor’s treatment recommendation depends on:
- The size of the aneurysm
- How fast or slowly it is growing
For smaller, slower-growing aneurysms, your doctor may recommend medication to control blood pressure as well as closely monitoring the aneurysm's size. With this type of monitoring, called watchful waiting, you will undergo regularly scheduled medical imaging tests, such as ultrasound or magnetic resonance angiography, to track the aneurysm's size. If the aneurysm grows large enough to require treatment, your doctor may recommend surgical or minimally invasive treatment of the aneurysm.
Surgical Aneurysm Repair
Surgical repair of an aortic aneurysm is an open procedure, and we will place you under general anesthesia. During this procedure, your surgeon:
- Accesses your aorta
- Removes or bypasses the weakened portion of the aorta
- Attaches a synthetic tube (called a graft) above and below the aneurysm
Minimally Invasive Aneurysm Repair
To avoid the large incision and extended recovery time involved in surgical aneurysm repair, surgeons developed endovascular aneurysm repair, a minimally invasive procedure. Endovascular repair uses a special catheter that holds a synthetic tube, called an endograft.
During endovascular repair, your surgeon:
- Makes a small incision in arteries located in your groin
- Advances a catheter (a thin, flexible tube) through the blood vessels to the location of the aneurysm
- Attaches the endograft to the inner artery wall. The endograft forms a kind of tunnel through which blood flows, relieving the pressure on the weakened portion of the aorta.