What is AAA?
An abdominal aortic aneurysm—or AAA—is a blood-filled bulge or ballooning of the abdominal aorta, the artery that carries blood away from the heart to the lower part of the body. Over time, the bulge (known as an aneurysm) can become weak, and the force of normal blood pressure can cause the aorta to rupture. This can lead to severe pain, massive internal bleeding or even sudden death. Most patients with a ruptured aneurysm do not survive emergency treatment, making AAA the third leading cause of sudden death in men over 60.
Abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) ruptures annually kill more than 15,000 Americans and are the 13th leading cause of death in the United States. It is estimated that more than one million people are living with an undiagnosed AAA.
Millions of Americans are at risk for abdominal aortic aneurysms (AAA). By understanding the risk factors, you can be prepared to take action! While the exact causes are not clear, risk factors associated with this condition include:
- Age – Individuals between the age of 65 and 75 are most likely to develop this condition
- Gender – AAAs are 8 times more common in men than in women
- Family history of AAA
- Smoking or a history of smoking
AAA is known as a silent killer because many people do not experience any symptoms. Often aneurysms grow slowly and go unnoticed. Some aneurysms may never reach the point of bursting, while others may enlarge quickly and rupture without warning. Individuals who do experience symptoms often describe them as:
- A pulsing feeling in the abdomen
- Unexplained, severe pain in the lower back
- Tenderness in the chest
If you think you are at risk for an AAA, the first step is to schedule a consult with one of our skilled Clinicians. We will discuss risk factors, family history and symptoms to determine if you will benefit from an abdominal aorta ultrasound exam.
Most AAAs can be detected through a simple ultrasound exam in which a healthcare professional glides a sensor over the stomach to view images of the aorta. The images produced will help your doctor “see” inside your aorta to determine if an AAA is present. These exams also measure the size of the AAA, a key step in identifying the best treatment option.
Heart Vascular & Leg is dedicated to helping patients identify their risk of Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm (AAA) Disease earlier and optimize their treatment options through proactive education. Our doctors will develop an individualized treatment plan for each patient.
For most patients, a combination of one or more approaches will yield the best results. These include making lifestyle changes, medication and interventional procedures.
Patients with a normal reading will have no further aorta screenings. Patients will receive educational material on lifestyle changes including resources to help quit smoking, reduce stress, control high blood pressure, eat a healthy diet and get regular exercise.
If you are diagnosed with a small abdominal aortic aneurysm and you are not experiencing symptoms, your doctor may recommend medical monitoring, which includes regular appointments to make sure your aneurysm isn’t growing, and management of other medical conditions that could worsen your aneurysm.
If you have a large abdominal aortic aneurysm, surgery may be recommended. Your doctor may also recommend surgery if the aneurysm is growing quickly. In addition, your doctor may recommend treatment if you’re experiencing symptoms such as stomach pain or you have a leaking, tender or painful aneurysm.
The options for treatment of your aneurysm will depend on a variety of factors, including location and size of the aneurysm, your age, and other existing conditions that may increase your risk of surgery or endovascular repair. Your doctor will discuss with you the most appropriate treatment for you.