Abdominal Aortic aneurysm is a disease which is caused by the enlargement of the abdominal Aorta. This enlargement is usually due to the swelling in the walls of Aorta when they become weak. In case if you don’t know, Aorta is the blood vessel (about the thickness of a garden hose) in the body that takes the blood from the heart and supplies it to the head, abdomen, pelvis, legs and arms.
There are two types of the abdominal aortic aneurysm which are classified on the basis of the speed of growing and the size of Aorta. Usually when the diameter of the Aorta is less than 5.5 cm, then it is considered as small AAA and can be cured easily, but when the diameter of the Aorta is bigger than 5.5 cm, it is considered as large AAA, and this includes some severe complications like internal bleeding which could be life-threatening.
Usually, abdominal aortic aneurysm does not show any signs unless the Aorta in the abdomen ruptures or causes internal bleeding. Following are the symptoms which may be observed when the blood vessel in the abdomen ruptures:
- Excruciating pain in the lower back, abdomen, flank and scrotum.
- A drop in blood pressure and an increased heart rate which can also cause brief unconsciousness.
- A bruise in the side may indicate retroperitoneal bleeding.
- Sweaty or clammy skin.
One must concern the doctor immediately if the symptoms mentioned above are observed because ruptured Aorta can sometimes even cause death.
Though the exact reason for the cause of an abdominal aortic aneurysm is still unknown there are certain factors which may be responsible for the occurrence of this disease:
- High blood pressure: This increases the chances of the aortic aneurysm by making the walls of the blood vessels weak.
- Infection: Though it is a bit unlikely, fungal or bacterial infections can sometimes cause this disease.
- Use of tobacco: smoking and excessive use of tobacco may cause the weakening of Aorta walls.
- Genetic disease: This disease can also be hereditary in some cases.
- Atherosclerosis: This condition includes the accumulation of fat on the blood vessels, which can cause an abdominal aortic aneurysm.
- Sudden trauma: Some severe accident can also cause Aortic Rupture.
- Blood vessel diseases
An abdominal aortic aneurysm can be diagnosed using some medical tests like CT scan, abdominal ultrasound or physical exam.
Plain radiographs of the abdomen can detect aneurysm, however, in most cases, ultrasonography is used to detect the size of the aneurysm. In addition to this, free peritoneal fluid can also be determined. It is sensitive and, but it can face difficulties in producing a result if there is some bowel gas present or the patient under observation is obese whereas CT scan is completely sensitive towards aneurysm and also helps in the planning of surgery by providing detailed anatomy. Retroperitoneal fluid can also be easily detected through a CT scan. Angiography and MRI are also some less popular methods which can detect or visualize aneurysm.
The doctor will treat this abdominal aortic aneurysm accordingly by considering the size of the aneurysm and its growing speed. This can be operated by endovascular surgery or open abdominal surgery.
Endovascular surgery is less complicated and involves less risk. This surgery treats an aneurysm by stabilizing the walls of Aorta using a graft.
Open abdominal surgery is mainly used in severe cases. This includes the removal of damaged tissues from the wall of Aorta.
If the aneurysm is small and enhancing slowly, i.e. when the diameter of Aorta is less than 5.5 cm, likely, the doctor may not perform any surgery and keep it under observation.
One should immediately see a doctor on the occurrence of the above-mentioned symptoms. But for those who have no symptoms of an aneurysm, are recommended to go through a routine check-up, especially if-
- They are a male with age between 65 to 75 and smoke regularly. And even if they haven’t smoked ever, they must consult a doctor who can analyze the risk factors.
- They have aneurysm running in the family.
- They are a patient of high blood pressure.