What is an abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA)?
An abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) is a bulge in the aorta (the aorta is the main blood vessel coming from the heart that supplies blood to all organs) in your abdomen. In the case of an abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA), an aneurysm develops in the part of the aorta that extends through the abdomen. The bulge occurs below the renal arteries (kidneys) and may extend
into the iliac arteries (legs). Most AAAs occur in association with advanced atherosclerosis, an accumulation of fatty deposits on the vessel wall.
Aneurysms occur most commonly in the aorta, the main artery of the chest and abdomen. The aorta is the body's largest artery and carries blood flow from the heart to all vital organs, and eventually to the legs and feet. Aortic aneurysms are caused by a progressive weakening of the aortic wall which results in a dilatation, or "ballooning" of the vessel. The aneurysm will grow progressively larger and eventually rupture if it is not diagnosed and treated. When an aortic aneurysm ruptures it is a surgical emergency! Many patients do not even survive long enough to make it to the hospital, and among those who do, more than half eventually die of complications. In fact, ruptured aortic aneurysm are the 13th leading cause of death in the US, accounting for more than 15,000 deaths each year. On the other hand, when aortic aneurysms are diagnosed early and treated electively, treatment is safe, effective, and curative. While major surgery has been required to repair aortic aneurysms in the past, newer, less invasive catheter-based technologies using endovascular grafting have made treatment less complicated. It is clear that with the combination of effective diagnosis and the modern treatment of aortic aneurysms countless lives lost due to aneurysm rupture can be avoided.
An abdominal aortic aneurysm include age over 60 years, smoking, and high blood pressure. A family history of AAA is particularly concerning so if any of your direct relatives had an aneurysm, tell your doctor so they can arrange a screening exam! The risk of AAA's increase with age and they are much more common in men than in women. The majority of patients have no symptoms at the time an AAA is discovered. In fact, AAA's are often detected on tests that were performed for entirely different reasons. Although AAA can be detected by physical examination, most are diagnosed today using ultrasound scan or CAT scans, simple exams that are non-invasive and can be done as an outpatient. These exams can tell us whether an AAA is present and how big it is - the key elements to determine the need for treatment.
Since major surgery was required in the past to repair an aortic aneurysm, the decision to fix an AAA depended upon a comparison of the risk of rupture with risk of the surgery itself. Most doctors agree that an AAA 5 centimeters in diameter (about the size of a lemon) needs treatment in a patient in otherwise good health. Smaller aneurysms may also need treatment if they cause symptoms (for instance, back or abdominal pain) or follow-up studies have revealed rapid growth of the aneurysm.
More information on aortic aneurysm and other aortic valve diseases
What is an aortic aneurysm? - An aortic aneurysm is a localized dilatation or aneurysm of the aorta, usually representing an underlying weakness in the wall of the aorta at that location.
What causes an aortic aneurysm? - Most aortic aneurysms occur in the abdominal aorta, the main cause being arteriosclerosis. There is a familial tendency to aortic aneurysms.
What're the symptoms of aortic aneurysm? - Most intact aortic aneurysms do not produce any symptoms. The ballooning of the aneurysm does not cause any symptoms unless it becomes large enough.
What're the complications of aortic aneurysm? - Half of all persons with untreated abdominal aortic aneurysms die of rupture within 5 years. Spontaneous blockage of the aorta can also occur.
How is aortic aneurysm diagnosed? - Aortic aneurysms can be diagnosed from their symptoms. An ultrasound scan is the easiest way to detect an aortic aneurysm.
What's the treatment for aortic aneurysms? - Medical therapy of aortic aneurysms involves strict blood pressure control. Symptomatic aneurysms require surgical treatment to prevent complications.
What's an abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA)? - An abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) is a bulge in the aorta in abdomen. Most AAAs occur in association with advanced atherosclerosis.
What're the symptoms of abdominal aortic aneurysm? - Symptoms of abdominal aortic aneurysm include a pulsing sensation in the abdomen, and pain ranging from mild to severe.
How is abdominal aortic aneurysm diagnosed? - Because abdominal aortic aneurysms may not cause any symptoms at the beginning, they are diagnosed by chance during a physical examination.
What's the treatment for abdominal aortic aneurysm? - Treatment of abdominal aortic aneurysm depends upon the size of the aneurysm. Surgical treatment of abdominal aortic aneurysm is often preformed.
What is aortic valve disease? - An aortic valve disorder usually does not cause any symptoms in its early stages. Infection on an abnormal aortic valve leads to a disease called infective endocarditis.
What is aortic insufficiency? - Aortic insufficiency is the leaking of the aortic valve of the heart that causes blood to flow in the reverse direction during ventricular diastole.
What's aortic valve regurgitation? - Aortic valve regurgitation develops hen the valve leaflets fail to close properly during the heart's relaxation phase.
What causes aortic valve regurgitation? - Causes of aortic valve regurgitation include being born with a defective aortic valve, wear and tear from aging, infection of the lining of the heart.
What're the symptoms of aortic regurgitation? - Symptoms of aortic regurgitation include chest pain, excessive sweating, palpitations, shortness of breath that worsens with exertion or lying down.
How is aortic valve regurgitation diagnosed? - A doctor diagnoses aortic valve regurgitation by hearing a heart murmur or other abnormal noises when listening with a stethoscope.
What're the treatments for aortic regurgitation? - Medicines to improve the pumping action of the heart may be given to reduce the severity of the regurgitation. Valve replacement surgery is usually recommended.
What is aortic stenosis? - Aortic valve stenosis is a heart condition caused by narrowing of the aortic valve. Aortic stenosis is the inability of the aortic valve to open completely.
What causes aortic stenosis? - Congenital aortic stenosis is caused by improper development of the aortic valve in the first 8 weeks of fetal growth. Age related calcification of the valve is the most common cause.
What're the symptoms of aortic stenosis? - Symptoms of aortic stenosis include shortness of breath (dyspnea), passing out (syncope), and chest pain (angina pectoris).
How is aortic stenosis diagnosed? - Aortic stenosis is often diagnosed due to the presence of a heart murmur. The gold standard for diagnosis is an echocardiogram.
What's the treatment for aortic stenosis? - Patients with mild aortic stenosis do not require treatment. Valve replacement surgery is indicated for patients with severe aortic stenosis.
Aortic valve replacement surgery - Aortic valve replacement surgery is an open heart procedure for treatment of narrowing (stenosis) or leakage (regurgitation) of the aortic valve.