An abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) occurs when the wall of the aorta is weakened, which causes it to bulge as blood flows through. An aneurysm less than 5cm in diameter has a lower risk of rupturing, and often requires no treatment other than watchful waiting. An aneurysm larger than 5cm in diameter has a higher risk of rupturing and usually requires treatment.
Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm Symptoms
Most abdominal aortic aneurysms develop slowly over time, which may make it difficult to detect symptoms. However, some aneurysms develop more quickly and present with obvious symptoms including:
- Prolonged pain in the abdomen or on the side that does not get better with medication or movement
- A pulsating feeling in the abdomen
- Back pain
Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm Risk Factors
You may be at an increased risk for developing an abdominal aortic aneurysm if you meet any of the following criteria:
- You are age 65 or older
- You are a male (males are four times more likely to have the condition)
- You currently smoke or chew tobacco
- You have ever smoked or chewed tobacco
- You have atherosclerosis, a disease in which plaque builds up inside the arteries
- You have a family history of aneurysms of any kind
If you have any of the symptoms of an abdominal aortic aneurysm, contact your doctor, especially if you also have one or more risk factors.
Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm Treatment
The traditional treatment for AAA is an open surgery, which requires general anesthesia, a lengthy hospital stay, and an incision that runs from just below the breastbone to the top of the pubic bone. However, interventional radiologists with the Association of Alexandria Radiologists can provide a much less invasive option that doesn’t require open surgery. During the minimally invasive procedure, the radiologist makes a very small incision in the groin and runs a catheter through the artery into the aneurysm. A stent graft is passed through the catheter and opened inside the aneurysm to create new, stronger walls within the aorta. This treatment option provides an alternative to surgery that requires less recovery time, less cost and no large incisions. To learn more, request a referral from your physician and schedule a consultation at Inova Alexandria Hospital, Inova Mount Vernon Hospital, or Sentara Northern Virginia Medical Center.