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May
26

Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm

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An abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) is when the area of the aorta that carries blood to the abdomen, pelvis, and legs balloons and dangerously swells. There are five types of aortic aneurysms, but abdominal aortic aneurysms account for 75% of these. Most of these types of aneurysms occur below the kidneys but can occur at the kidney level or above. People most at risk for having an abdominal aortic aneurysm are men aged 40-80. Obesity, smoking, high blood pressure, and emphysema may also heighten the chances for developing this type of aneurysm.

Aneurysms develop at a slow rate usually over the course of years and may not have any symptoms. An AHA PALS course may be required in order to treat such a condition. Some abdominal aortic aneurysms are discovered by abdominal ultrasounds or a CT scan of the abdomen. However, if an aneurysm develops quickly (like a rupture or a tear) the following symptoms may come on quickly: rapid heart rate, clammy skin, nausea and vomiting, pain in abdomen or back that radiates down to legs, groin, or buttocks. If any combination of these symptoms should arise quickly, the patient should seek medical attention immediately. Upon arriving at the health care facility, the physician will perform an abdominal exam. Checking of the pulse and checking for sensation in the legs will give the physician a clue that the patient may in fact have an aneurysm. Upon the exam of the abdomen, if a doctor finds the abdomen has a mass, is stiff, or has a pulsating sensation, these symptoms could also signal an abdominal aortic aneurysm.

Treatments are conditional on the size and severity of the aneurysm. Small aneurysms can be treated with medication to prevent enlargement, and monitoring is essential to track the size of the bulge. More severe aneurysms endovascular surgery is performed by inserting a stent graph through the leg artery into the aorta to reinforce the weakened part of the aorta preventing the vessel from rupturing. Also, a benefit to endovascular surgery is that is more easily tolerated by older patients. In emergency situations that require prompt attention such as rupture or rapid dilation, open abdominal surgery may be required. During this procedure, an incision is made and the weakened section of the aorta is replaced with a graft and sutured in to place.

When found ahead of time, the prognosis for the patient is very good as surgery often times can keep a rupture or tear from occurring. Likewise, if severe symptoms mentioned above are experienced it is essential to have a medical profession examine the patient.

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