Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm

What is an Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm (AAA)

Abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) is an aneurysm, a bulge that forms when the aortic artery that supplies blood to the abdomen, pelvis and legs becomes weak and can no longer support the pressure of the blood flow through the artery.  Once the aneurysm develops, it can increase in size over time. The larger it becomes the greater risk it will break open or tear.  This can be life-threatening.

Symptoms of AAA

Symptoms of an AAA range from no symptoms at all to coming on slowly or very suddenly.  It is important to seek medical attention immediately.  Generally, symptoms may include:

  • Pain in the abdomen or back which may be severe, sudden or constant
  • Pain may spread to the groin, buttocks or legs
  • Passing out
  • Clammy skin
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Shock

Causes of AAA

While exact causes are unknown, the following are believed to be contributing risk factors:

  • Smoking
  • High blood pressure
  • Genetic factors
  • Male over 60

Treatment Options

Small AAAs rarely require surgery. However, if surgery is required, two types are performed:

  • Endovascular stent grafting:  A catheter is inserted into artery and a stent is inserted to support the artery wall and stop leaking or bleeding of the aneurysm.
  • Open repair:  This approach opens the abdomen and replaces the abnormal artery with a graft to support or replace the artery.