abdominal aortic aneurysm AAA symptoms treatment

Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm: AAA Symptoms Causes Treatment Diagnosis Surgery Prognosis


Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm (AAA) Signs Symptoms Causes Treatment Diagnosis Surgery Prognosis and risk factors Surgery recovery Care… Here is everything you are looking to know!

What is it like living with Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm?
Is there any chance of reducing the occurrence of ruptured abdominal aortic aneurysm?

Continue your reading to know what exactly is Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm?, Types and symptoms along with Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm diagnosis and prevention.

abdominal aortic aneurysm AAA symptoms treatment

abdominal aortic aneurysm AAA image credit:familydoctor

What is Abdominal aortic aneurysm?

The aorta is the largest blood vessel in the human body that carries blood from your heart up to your head and arms and down to your abdomen, legs, and pelvis. Sometimes, the walls of the aorta can swell or bulge out like a small balloon if they become weak which results in the abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA).

When it happens in the part of the aorta that’s in your abdomen, it is called abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA). It is not a serious health issue, but a ruptured aneurysm can be life-threatening.  

What are some different types of aneurysms?

The following are the various types of Aneurysms.

  • Abdominal aneurysm — in an artery in the abdomen
  • Thoracic aneurysm — in an artery in the chest area
  • Cerebral aneurysm — in an artery in the brain
  • Peripheral aneurysm — in the large arteries that run down the legs and behind the knees, and occasionally arms

Signs of Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm

These are the most common warning signs of Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm.

  • Intense back or abdominal pain
  • Rapid pulse
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Excessive sweating
  • Shock

What are the Symptoms of Abdominal aortic aneurysm?

Most aneurysms show no symptoms unless they rupture. However, you may experience one or more of the following symptoms in case of rupture:

  • sudden pain in your abdomen or back
  • pain spreading from your abdomen or back to your pelvis, legs, or buttocks
  • clammy or sweaty skin
  • increased heart rate
  • shock or loss of consciousness

Call your doctor immediately if you experience any of these symptoms because a ruptured aneurysm can be life-threatening than a normal aneurysm.

Who are at the risk of AAA (Abdominal aortic aneurysm)?

AAA is more likely to occur in

  • Males
  • Obese or overweight
  • Over age 60
  • Have a family history of heart conditions and diseases
  • Have high blood pressure, especially if you’re between 35 and 60 years old
  • Have high cholesterol or fatty buildup in the blood vessels (atherosclerosis)
  • Live a sedentary lifestyle
  • Have had trauma to your abdomen or other damage to your midsection
  • Smoke tobacco products

What are the Causes of Abdominal aortic aneurysm?

Most aortic aneurysms occur in the part of your abdomen aorta. The exact cause of abdominal aortic aneurysms is unknown but there are number of factors that play a key role. The following are some of the factors that play a key role in causing Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm.

  • Tobacco use. Cigarette smoking and other forms of tobacco increases your risk of aortic aneurysms as they can be damage to the aorta and weaken the aorta’s walls.
  • Hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis). Atherosclerosis occurs when fat and other substances build up on the lining of a blood vessel which may increase your risk of an aneurysm.
  • High blood pressure. High blood pressure increases the risk of abdominal aortic aneurysms.
  • Blood vessel diseases in the aorta. Inflammation of blood vessels can also contribute to abdominal aortic aneurysms.
  • Infection in the aorta. Bacterial or fungal infections rarely cause abdominal aortic aneurysms.
  • Trauma. Trauma can also cause abdominal aortic aneurysms.
  • Heredity: Abdominal aortic aneurysms could be hereditary.

Aortic Aneurysms may develop anywhere along the aorta. When they occur in the upper part of the aorta, in the chest, they are called thoracic aortic aneurysms and when they occur in the lower part of your aorta, it is called abdominal aortic aneurysms or AAA.

What are some predisposing factors for abdominal aneurysms?

  • Smoking
  • Heredity
  • Injury
  • Infection
  • High blood pressure (hypertension)
  • Arteriosclerosis (also called atherosclerosis
  • High cholesterol

How is an abdominal aneurysm detected?

Find here the diagnosis of Abdominal Aneurysm.

Most abdominal aneurysms are diagnosed accidentally. That can be during a routine physical examination or on X-ray when being tested for other health concerns.

The following imaging tests that are conducted in order to determine the size, the location of aneurysm, and treatment options:

  • Abdominal Aorta Ultrasound: In Abdominal Aorta Ultrasound, high-frequency sound waves, inaudible to the human ear, are transmitted through body tissues in order to record the echoes of the sound waves. These recorded echoes transformed into video or photographic images.
  • CT scans: CT or Computed Tomography is commonly known as a CT scan. It uses X-rays and computers so as to produce images of a cross-section of the body.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): In Magnetic Resonance Imaging, a large magnet, radio waves, and a computer are used to produce clear pictures of the body without the involvement of X-rays.
  • Angiogram: test in which a thin tube (catheter) is inserted into a blood vessel and a contrast dye is injected to make the blood vessels visible on the X-ray. It is used to aid in the treatment of an aneurysm.

How are abdominal aneurysms treated?

Abdominal Aortic Aneurysms treatment involves surgical repair. Unruptured aneurysms are addressed with elective surgery, whereas ruptured AAAs necessitate emergency repair.

  1. Open – This requires direct access to the aorta via a transperitoneal or retroperitoneal approach
  2. Endovascular – Endovascular stent grafting involves gaining access to the lumen of the abdominal aorta, usually via small incisions.

How do I prepare for AAA screening?

Follow the below guidelines during AAA Screening.

  • Wear a comfortable, loose-fitting, two-piece outfit
  • Fast for four hours prior to your screening
  • Make sure the meal you eat four hours prior to your screening is a light one
  • Have half a cup of coffee or tea and a moderate amount of water
  • If you take medication, take it as prescribed
  • If you are diabetic and are not comfortable fasting for four hours, please limit yourself to a diabetic meal

Get ready for your appointment

If you are worried about your aneurysm risk because of strong family history, make an appointment with your family doctor because early detection results in easier and more effective treatment.

Your doctor will likely ask if anyone in your family has ever had an aortic aneurysm, so have all the information ready. It will be a good idea to be prepared for your appointment because appointments are brief and you need to discuss a lot.

Continue your reading, to get ready for your appointment, and to know what to expect from your doctor.

What you can do?

Ask everything that you need to do in advance including a restricted diet.

  • Write down any symptoms you’re experiencing
  • Include all the symptoms that are unrelated to an abdominal aortic aneurysm
  • Write down key personal information such as family history of heart disease or aneurysms.
  • Make a list of all medications, vitamins or supplements that you’re taking.
  • Take someone who can accompany you in remembering something that you missed or forgot.
  • Discuss your diet, exercise habits, and tobacco use.
  • Talk to your doctor about any challenges you might face in getting started.
  • Tell your doctor if you’re a current or former smoker

Questions to ask your doctor

Prepare a list of questions to make most of your time in discussing important things, because your time with your doctor is limited. List your questions on the basis of their importance from most important to least important in case time runs out. Some basic questions you need to consider to ask your doctor include:

  • What’s the most likely cause of my symptoms?
  • What kinds of tests will I need?
  • What treatments are available, and which do you think would be the best treatment for me?
  • What’s an appropriate level of physical activity?
  • How often do I need to be screened for this aneurysm?
  • Should I tell other family members to be screened for an aneurysm?
  • I have other health conditions. How can I best manage these conditions together?
  • Is there a generic alternative to the medicine you’re prescribing me?
  • Are there any brochures or other printed material that I can take home with me?
  • What websites do you recommend visiting for more information?

What to expect from your doctor

Your doctor is likely to ask you a number of questions which may reserve time. So be prepared to go over any points you want to spend more time on. Your doctor may ask you the following questions:

  • When did you first notice your symptoms?
  • Do your symptoms come and go, or do you always feel them?
  • How severe are your symptoms?
  • Do you have a family history of aneurysms?
  • Have you ever smoked?
  • Does anything seem to improve your symptoms?
  • What, if anything, appears to worsen your symptoms?

Prevention of Abdominal aortic aneurysm

The following things can increase your chance of reducing AA and help stop one getting bigger.

These include:

  • Read stop smoking advice and find out about Smoke-free, the NHS stop smoking service
  • Eat a balanced diet and cut down on fatty food
  • Aim to do at least 150 minutes of exercise a week; read about how to get started with some common activities
  • Use the healthy weight calculator to see if you might need to lose weight, and find out how to lose weight safely
  • Read some tips on cutting down and general advice about alcohol

Diet to be followed during Abdominal aortic aneurysm

  • Choose fresh, whole foods over processed, packaged snacks, like cake, cookies, and candy.
  • Limit fatty cuts of meat, such as brisket, T-bone steak, and beef ribs.
  • Eat fried and fast food only in moderation.
  • Opt for low-fat or fat-free dairy in lieu of full-fat dairy.
  • Reach for whole grains and complex carbohydrates, such as brown rice or whole-grain bread, rather than refined, white carbohydrates, like white rice or white bread.
  • Avoid or limit sugar-sweetened beverages, including soda, fruit juice, and energy drinks.
  • Use heart-healthy oil, like olive, over coconut, palm kernel, and palm oil
  • Fatty fish, like salmon, mackerel, herring, lake trout, and sardines
  • Nuts and seeds, like walnuts, flaxseeds, and chia seeds
  • Plant oils, like flaxseed oil, soybean oil, and canola oil
  • Fortified foods, like eggs, yogurt, and milk
  • Soybeans
  • Wild rice

Facts about Abdominal aortic aneurysm

  • The risk of AAA increases with age
  • Tobacco users are eight times more likely to be affected than non-users
  • AAAs are between five to ten times more common in men than in women
  • There are approximately 15,000 deaths per year related to the rupture of an aneurysm
  • Ruptured aneurysms are the 10th leading cause of death in men over 50 in the country

Things to remember:

  • If you have a condition that increases your risk of an AAA, such as high blood pressure, your GP may also recommend taking tablets to treat this.
  • Most AAA are asymptomatic and are found incidentally or through screening.
  • Cases can be investigated by ultrasound scans, however, CT imaging will be warranted when surgical intervention is considered.
  • Management warrants both tailored medical and surgical intervention, with definitive treatment either via open or endovascular repair.
  • A ruptured AAA needs urgent management and investigation, involving suitable specialists as soon as possible.
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