The Silent Killer: This Devastating Aneurysm Wastes No Time

Abdominal aortic aneurysms (AAA), also recognized as Triple A, are portions of the lower aorta that are enlarged, about 50% larger than the normal size of the proximal aorta. This bulging and ballooning can weaken the aorta, the body’s major vascular vessel that supplies blood to the legs and the rest of the body. AAAs have a high death toll when they rupture but are asymptomatic otherwise. Clinical issues range from pain in the abdomen, groin and/or back up to hypotension, shock, and death. In fact, the mortality rate of a ruptured abdominal aortic aneurysm is 60-80% of patients that present complications, leaving this condition as the 10th most common cause of death, as reported by radiopaedia.org.

Abdominal aortic aneurysms

Causes and Risk Factors

The exact cause of AAA is not fully known, but the following are likely contributing factors:

  • Atherosclerosis 
  • Age (55+)
  • Race (Caucasians are more prone)
  • Gender (more prevalent in males)
  • Family History (extremely predisposed if 1st degree relatives present AAA)
  • Smoking
  • Diabetes
  • Genetic or connective tissue disorders (like Marfan syndrome, Ehlers-Danlos syndrome)
  • Vasculitis
  • Hypertension
  • Hyperlipidemia
Diagnosis

Triple A is generally discovered upon a routine checkup, or when diagnosing another related disease. After a complete family history evaluation and physical examination, our vascular team uses top-of-the-line, minimally invasive techniques to formulate a proper diagnosis:

Angiogram/ Arteriogram
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)
X-Ray
Computed Tomography Scan (CT Scan)
Ultrasound

Prevention

You can detect AAA early on or prevent it from ever occurring by:

Exercising regularly
Keep stress levels low
Check blood pressure and cholesterol levels often
Maintain a low sodium diet
Know your family history and inform your relatives of their risks, if any

Treatment

As an abdominal aortic aneurysm grows, the risk of death grows along with it. Based on your health, age, symptoms, course of the disease, preference, and medical tolerance (for medications and certain procedures), surgical treatment or non-surgical treatment will be recommended.

Non-Surgical Treatment for AAA

If you are diabetic, you will be asked to control blood sugar with change in diet and/or medications.

If you are overweight, you will be asked to lose weight.

If you smoke, you will be asked to quit smoking on your own or with a smoking cessation program.

Surgical Treatment for AAA

When the aneurysm reaches around 2 inches or has a growth rate of 1/4 inch every 6 months to a year, it is time for Open Surgical repair or Endovascular aneurysm repair (EVAR).

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Farouk Marzouk