Aorta is the key blood vessel that carries blood from heart and supplies it to complete body. Abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) is a health disorder that causes severe swelling in lowermost region of an individual’s aorta. It may rupture the aorta and cause heavy bleeding inside the body. This is why it is utmost important to treat this condition before it gets worse. Early identification and treatment can definitely improve patient’s quality of life.
Signs and Symptoms of Abdominal Aortic Aneurysms
The following list describes the most common signs and symptoms of abdominal aortic aneurysms.
- Pulsating Sensation – Patients may experience pulsating sensation around their navel region due to presence of AAA.
- Persistent Abdominal Pain – Patients with an underlying abdominal aortic aneurysm are likely to experience persistent and intense pain in stomach and abdominal portion.
- Severe Back Pain – Severe and constant back pain is the most prominent warning sign of AAA. Therefore, patients experiencing back pain from a long period must consult well-qualified doctors for precise diagnosis.
In addition to above-mentioned signs, sudden pain in abdomen, extremely sweaty skin, dizziness, shortness of breath and loss of consciousness may appear due to rupturing of aneurysms. Patients experiencing these signs must seek a prompt medical assistance because any type of negligence may prove fatal.
Causes and Risk Factors for Abdominal Aortic Aneurysms
Exact cause of abdominal aortic aneurysms is still unknown. However, healthcare professionals state that the following risk factors may increase the risk of getting AAA.
- Age and Family History – People above the age category of 65 years and have a family medical history of this disease are at greater likelihood of acquiring it in future.
- Smoking and Tobacco Consumption – Chain smokers and people who consume tobacco in heavy amounts are at higher risk of developing AAA.
- Infection – In rare instances, fungal and bacterial infections in aorta may lead to the occurrence of AAA.
- Trauma – Sometimes, any severe physical injury after meeting an accident may give rise to AAA in an individual.
- Additional Medical Issues – Patients suffering from certain medical problems like high blood pressure, atherosclerosis and blood vessel inflammation are likely to develop abdominal aortic aneurysm condition.
Diagnosing Abdominal Aortic Aneurysms
At first, patients need to find experienced cardiac surgeons who are well-versed in performing abdominal aortic aneurysm treatments. It will considerably raise the probability of getting positive outcomes. During initial consultation, respective cardiac surgeons may specifically ask patients regarding the signs and symptoms that are causing distress. They may check their abdominal region with the help of a stethoscope. Furthermore, doctors may suggest the given imaging tests for confirming the diagnosis.
- Abdominal Ultrasound – This is a completely safe and painless procedure which involves use of sound waves for capturing real-time images or videos of patient’s abdominal region and surrounding organs or structures. This test helps in clear identification of presence as well as extent of AAA in patients.
- Computerized Tomography (CT Scan) – This imaging technique helps in producing high-quality pictures of patient’s abdomen and nearby tissues. It uses powerful x-rays for achieving the desired results. Patients are exposed to a device that emits x-rays under strict medical evaluation.
- Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI Scan Test) – MRI scan technique is similar to CT scan method. However, it uses magnetic fields and radio waves instead of x-rays for attaining a greater degree of precision.
Cardiac surgeons thoroughly inspect the results of such tests for determining the size and extent of AAA. It helps them in outlining the most befitting treatment plans for patients.
Treatment Options for Abdominal Aortic Aneurysms
Abdominal aortic aneurysm treatment mainly depends on dimensions of underlying AAA. They are described as follows.
- Small-Sized AAA Treatments – In majority of cases, no special treatment is required for small-sized abdominal aortic aneurysms (3 to 4.4 cm). However, respective cardiac surgeons may request patients to visit them after every six months for imaging tests and overall health check-ups. It will help them keep a tab on their medical status.
- Medium-Sized AAA Treatments – Doctors usually ask patients with medium-sized AAA (4.5 to 5.4 cms) to indulge in regular ultrasound scan sessions. Patients will probably require visiting the clinic after every three months. In addition to this, patients may have to follow healthy lifestyle changes and consume several medications for managing the symptoms of AAA.
- Large-Sized AAA Treatments – For large-sized AAA (5.5 cm or more), doctors are likely to choose a surgical approach in order to prevent them from getting ruptured. They may perform any of the below-mentioned surgeries for providing best outcomes to patients.
- Open-Abdominal Surgery – This surgical procedure is performed under the influence of general anesthetics. Respective cardiac surgeons make a long incision in patient’s tummy. They carefully inspect the affected aorta section and remove the damaged part. After that, they implant a synthetic tube-like structure in its place and close the incision. This tube-like structure is clinically referred to as a ‘graft’. This surgery is quite complex and requires a month or two for complete recovery.
- Endovascular Surgery – This surgery is less invasive in nature and carries much fewer risks as compared to open abdomen surgery. This is the reason doctors consider it as a golden standard for treating large-sized AAA. It involves insertion of a thin camera-based medical tool which is called as a catheter in patient’s leg artery. It has a synthetic graft at its one end. Doctors carefully reach to patient’s aorta with the help of images provided by catheter camera and replace the deteriorated portion with graft. This procedure is much simpler as compared to others and requires just a couple of weeks for complete recovery.
If the aneurysm has already been ruptured, then doctors may perform any of these surgeries on an emergency basis for controlling its adverse effects and saving patient’s life.
Risks and Complications Associated with Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm Surgery
The following points elaborate some major risks and complications associated with abdominal aortic aneurysm surgery.
- Blood Vessel Damage – Healthy blood vessels surrounding AAA may get damaged during the operation.
- Serious Infection and Heavy Bleeding – There remains a risk of serious infection and heavy bleeding following AAA surgery. Patients experiencing such symptoms must seek a medical help immediately.
- Blood Clots – Patients may have to face problems such as clotting of blood after completion of their ascending aortic aneurysm surgery.
- Erection Problems – Men may encounter erection complications following their AAA surgery.
- Kidney Damage and Rupturing of Aorta – Patient’s kidneys may get damaged severely after their AAA surgery. Their aorta may also get ruptured and cause heavy bleeding. Prompt medical assistance is important to save patients in such instances.
Recovery Following Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm Treatment
Recovery entirely depends on particular treatment which is implemented and health status of patients. Respective doctors may recommend some lifestyle changes to patients such as eating green leafy vegetables and fresh fruits and quitting use of tobacco, alcohol and cigarettes. They may advise them to exercise regularly for avoiding any kind of post-surgical problems. Above all, patients must visit doctors for follow-up sessions at frequent time intervals. It will absolutely help patients to recover in a smooth and speedy manner.
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