An aneurysm is a weakened part of an artery wall. When the wall becomes weakened it expands like a balloon. If left untreated this can rupture or burst. An aneurysm of the main blood vessel found in the abdomen is called an abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA). The aorta is the large blood vessel that carries blood from the heart to the rest of the body.
Detecting an aneurysm
AAA usually does not have any symptoms. It is often discovered when tests are done for an unrelated problem. Your doctor may also discover it when feeling your abdomen during a routine exam. Your physician may then order tests such as an ultrasound or CT scan for further evaluation.
Who develops AAA?
Monitoring your condition
The risk of rupture of a small aneurysm is low. It may not grow or it may grow slowly. You and your doctor may choose to monitor this aneurysm before considering surgery. Typically this is done with an ultrasound every 6 months to a year depending on the size of the aneurysm.
When it is time to treat your AAA?
Depending on the specific location and size of your aneurysm your surgeon will decide when to operate and which procedure is right for you.
During open surgery an incision is made in your abdomen or left flank area. The aneurysm is then opened and cleaned of any blood clot. An artificial (Dacron) aortic graft is then sewn directly into the aorta and the wall of the aorta is sewn around the graft to protect it. The incision site is closed with sutures or staples.
Two small incisions are made in your upper thigh area. A thin, flexible tube called a catheter is then inserted through the arteries. A covered stentgraft (2 or 3 interlocking pieces) is then guided into the aorta under xray. Once the stentgraft is in position it is expanded and attached to the inside of the artery. The catheters are then removed leaving the graft in place inside the aorta. The incisions are then closed using sutures or staples.
Recovery time varies with each procedure. Discuss what to expect with your vascular surgeon.