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Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm Can Be a Silent Killer

October 12, 2010

If you have the following symptoms:

  • Pain in the abdomen (may be constant or come and go)
  • Pain in the lower back (may radiate to buttocks, groin or legs)
  • Pulsating or throbbing mass in abdomen
  • Presence of a soft mass in the abdomen
  • Severe and/or sudden onset of abdominal or back pain

…this may indicate the imminent rupture of an abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA).  

abdominal painThe aorta is the main blood vessel carrying blood from the heart. An aneurysm is a weakness in the aortic walls that a section to balloon. Often, even if it grows to be quite large, there will be NO symptoms of an aneurysm. But if the aneurysm ruptures, internal bleeding occurs, and unless treated immediately, is fatal. This is why an abdominal aortic aneurysm is called a “silent killer.”

Most abdominal aneurysms are diagnosed while the patient is undergoing an abdominal exam. The tests used to detect and monitor AAA include:

  • Abdominal Aortic ultrasound
  • CT Scan
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

…and all can be done in the Cleveland area, along with the proper treatment.

There are two methods to repair AAA. Open Surgical Repair involves opening the abdomen and replacing the weakened aorta with a fabric tube. Endovascular Stent Graft Repair is a relatively new procedure that is less invasive. It involves implanting a stent covered with a synthetic material into the aorta through a small incision in the groin. The stent graft allows blood to flow through the aorta without putting pressure on the aneurysm.

Since there is a high association between atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) and AAA, risk factors for atherosclerosis are similar for AAA:

  • Men over 60 years of age
  • Family history of AAA
  • High blood pressure
  • Emphysema (COPD)
  • Smokers
  • Patients with Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD)

For more information, read this article on CardioSmart.com or consult your doctor at North Ohio Heart or Ohio Medical Group.