When the lower part of the major vessel, the aorta gets enlarged, it is known as an abdominal aortic aneurysm. Aorta is the main vessel that supplies oxygenated blood to the body and runs through the heart to the chest and abdomen area.
Aorta holds a major function inside the body and hence a condition like an abdominal aortic aneurysm can cause life-threatening situations. The aneurysm may rupture and cause excessive internal bleeding, which can be life-threatening.
The abdominal aneurysm treatments can vary according to the degree of damage done. Sometimes, the aneurysms may even require emergency surgeries.
The signs and symptoms may not be prominent and also be difficult to get detected. The aneurysm may never rupture and doesn't cause symptoms unless it becomes large. It usually grows slowly over time. It may cause symptoms while growing and when it becomes large.
An enlarged abdominal aortic aneurysm may show the following symptoms:
Deep and constant pain in the belly area (often near the belly button)
There are a lot of risk factors associated with abdominal aortic aneurysms:
Tobacco use- Smoking is the leading cause of the conditions like abdominal aortic aneurysms as these can weaken the aorta walls and rupture them. People who chew and smoke tobacco are at a higher risk of developing an abdominal aortic aneurysm. Heavy and chronic smokers should get an ultrasound of the abdomen regularly, especially at the age of 65-75 years.
Age- People over the age of 65 are more prone to conditions like abdominal aortic aneurysms as their aorta walls may weaken with age.
Being male- Men are more prone to abdominal aortic aneurysms than women.
Family history- If one of your family members (blood-related) has an abdominal aortic aneurysm, you are more likely to get it.
Other aneurysms- If you have a medical history of aneurysms in other large vessels than the aorta like in the thoracic aortic aneurysm; you’ll be at a high risk of developing an abdominal aortic aneurysm.
The doctor performs a physical examination to assess your symptoms and evaluates the medical and family history to identify the cause of the aneurysm. Imaging tests such as ultrasound, CT, and MRI can be performed to confirm the diagnosis.
Abdominal ultrasound- the sound waves are used to diagnose and screen the blood flows through the belly area along with the aorta. It is a painless test and the transducer is placed on the abdomen slowly to create the image on the computer. It travels back and forth and the device sends signals to the screen.
CT scan of the abdomen- the cross-sectional images are created with the help of X-rays of the abdomen where the doctors can see a clear picture of the aorta. It is a painless test that can also detect the size and shape of the abdominal aortic aneurysm. A dye may also be given along with the CT to mark the veins clearly.
Abdominal MRI- the computer-generated radio waves along with the magnetic field are used to create detailed images of the abdominal structures and aorta. The blood vessels can also be clearly seen with the help of a dye employed in the veins.
Screening of the abdominal aortic aneurysm
Smokers, especially men are at increased risk of developing an abdominal aortic aneurysm. Screening recommendations are:
One-time screening for an abdominal ultrasound for men aged in the range of 65-75 years and who have smoked before.
If they have never smoked, a family history will be analysed for the condition of abdominal aortic aneurysm.
The doctor’s main aim is to stop the rupturing of the aneurysm for the abdominal aortic aneurysm. Hence, the abdominal aortic aneurysm treatment might take proper surgery or monitoring depending upon the size of the abdominal aortic aneurysm.
Medical monitoring involves the treatment as mindful watching if the abdominal aortic aneurysm isn’t rapid or big.
It is done to see the minor symptoms and requires regular assistance and check-ups by the doctors.
The imaging tests are required to determine the aneurysm size and manage conditions like blood pressure.
People would be asked for an abdominal ultrasound every six months and later for daily follow-ups.
If the abdominal aortic aneurysm is about the size of 1.9 to 2.2 inches (4.8 to 5.6 centimetres) or more than that, surgery is recommended as these may rupture and cause life-threatening issues. The other symptoms include stomach pain, or you have a leaking, tender or painful aneurysm.
Surgery will depend on age, condition, type of aneurysm, and size. It includes:
Endovascular repair- a catheter is inserted through the leg’s artery and is guided towards the aorta to repair the abdominal aortic aneurysm. A graft is also inserted to provide strength to the weak aorta section.
Open abdominal surgery will be the removal surgery of the damaged part of the aorta. The graft replaces the damaged part, and the recovery might take a month or more.
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