Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm (AAA)

Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm (AAA)

What is an AAA?

If you’ve been diagnosed with an aortic aneurysm, your aorta—the main blood vessel carrying blood from the heart to the rest of the body—contains a weakened area. As blood flows, that weakened area bulges like a balloon and is called an aneurysm. Most often, the aneurysm is located in the area below the spot where the aorta divides to supply blood to the kidney and above where it divides to supply blood to the pelvis and legs. This is called an abdominal aortic aneurysm. AAA

Is an AAA life threatening?

Yes. If the “balloon” or aneurysm gets too big, it may burst, causing severe damage or death.

What are the early symptoms of AAA?

Often, there are no symptoms. But some people with an AAA experience one or more of the following symptoms:

  • intense abdominal pain—may come and go or may be constant.
  • lower back pain—may radiate to the groin, buttocks or legs
  • a sensation like a pulse or heartbeat in the abdomen
  • fatigue

Are some people at higher risk for AAA?

Yes. Those over 60 are most prone to abdominal aortic aneurysm. In fact, between 5 and 7 percent of 60+ Americans will have an AAA, and one in 250 will die of a ruptured AAA. The 15,000 deaths from AAA in America make this the 17th leading cause of death in the country. Men are four times more likely than women to have an AAA, and you are also at higher risk if you smoke or have a family history of the disease. Some studies have shown an association between atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) and high blood pressure and an increased risk for AAA.

How is diagnostic radiology beneficial in detecting AAA?

Some AAAs may be found through physical examination, especially if the AAA is very large or the patient is thin. More often, diagnostic imaging is used for detection. Your VIP specialist may recommend ultrasound, CT (computed tomography), MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) or arteriography (X-rays using a contrast die to show blood flow through vessels) to determine the presence and size of an AAA.

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