Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm (AAA)

An aneurysm is a balloon-like bulge in a major blood vessel, the aorta. The bulge forms at a weak place in the vessel wall. An AAA is dangerous because it can rupture. This is serious and can be fatal. AAA is called a "silent" problem because it usually causes no symptoms. It is sometimes found during a routine exam but more often, is detected when tests are done for an unrelated problem. Anyone can have AAA but certain factors increase the risk. These include:  Having blood vessel disease in another part of the body and being a man over age 55 or a woman over 65.

Treatment often depends on several factors, including your age, overall health, location of the aneurysm, size, shape and condition of your blood vessels. Imaging tests such as Ultrasound, CT, MRI, or Artheriograpy may be used to determine the size and shape of the aneurysm. If your aneurysm is small, your doctor may recommend watchful waiting with periodic imaging tests at least once a year to track its size. If your aneurysm is large, or growing quickly, surgical repair may be necessary. There are two basic ways to repair the artery: endovascular repair and open surgery. Which type of repair depends on many factors. Endovascular repair uses small incisions in the groin and a graft is inserted into an artery through an incision and guided to the aneurysm. An endovascular stent designed to seal tightly with your artery above and below the aneurysm. This procedure often has a short recovery, hospital stay of 1-3 days. As the procedure begins, you will usually receive a sedative and a regional anesthesia or general anesthesia. A cut is then made in the skin overlying the femoral artery in the groin area and a guide wire is then threaded up the artery toward the aneurysm. The graft is then passed up to the aneurysm and left in place. The Groins are then closed with suture and /or staples and a dressing. The open surgery requires a single large incision through the abdomen. You will be given anesthesia to eliminate pain during the operation. The graft is sewn into the artery above and below the aneurysm. This involves a longer recovery time than endovascular repair (7-10 days in hospital) some of which may be in the intensive care unit. For some people, open surgery may be the only way to repair the aorta. The incision is closed with suture and /or staples, and a dressing. You will not be able to lift anything until your incision heals adequately. You will need to follow up with your surgeon for periodic check ups and imaging studies to check that the graft is functioning properly.