An Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm (AAA), a specific kind of aneurysm, is a condition in which the lining of the blood vessel called the aorta is enlarged within the abdomen. Abdominal aortic aneurysms pose a threat because they are usually silent until a medical emergency occurs.
The abdominal aorta is the largest blood vessel in the body and the main artery that originates in the heart. As the lining weakens from age and other risk factors, the vessel wall thins and expands. The most common location for an AAA is between where the aorta divides to supply blood to the kidneys and where it divides to supply blood to the pelvis and legs.
Aneurysms are a health risk because they can burst or rupture.
A ruptured aneurysm can cause severe internal bleeding,
which can lead to shock or even death.
Screening for Aortic Aneurysms
- A painless, non-invasive procedure, an abdominal aortic aneurysm screening requires you to lie on your back while a technician uses ultrasound to take images and measurements of your abdominal aorta.
- An X-ray of the abdomen (often done for other reasons) will show calcium deposits lining the wall of an AAA in some, but not all, cases.
- A more detailed scan such as a CT scan is sometimes done. This may be done if your doctor needs to know whether the aneurysm is affecting any of the arteries that
come off the aorta. For instance, if the aneurysm involves the section of the aorta where the arteries to the kidneys branch off then surgeons need to know this information if they plan to operate.
Who should have an aortic aneurysm screening?
Aortic aneurysms tend to be more common among older people who are 65 years of age or over. Each year, approximately 15,000 Americans die of a ruptured aortic
aneurysm. When detected in time, an aortic aneurysm can usually be repaired with surgery.
Many people with abdominal aortic aneurysm do not experience symptoms; these are the most common warning signs:
- Intense back or abdominal pain
- Rapid pulse
- Nausea and vomiting
- Excessive sweating
- Risk factors
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Genetic factors
- Gender (males have a higher risk)
- Here are some things you can do that may slow the growth of the aneurysm:
- Eat a healthy, balanced diet and cut down on fatty food.
- If you are a smoker, stop smoking.
- Make sure your blood pressure is normal. If you have not had it checked recently, it is worth getting it checked.
- Achieving and maintaining a normal BMI below 25.
- Get regular exercise. Gentle exercise such as walking and cycling are recommended to help to improve your overall level of fitness.
- If you have diabetes it is important that your blood sugar levels are well controlled.
How often should you get an aortic aneurysm screening?
Recommended guidelines only. Consult with your physician.