What are aortic aneurysms?
The aorta is the largest artery in the body, it commences at the heart and travels through the chest and abdomen giving off important branches to vital organs and the upper and lower limbs.
An aortic aneurysm is an abnormal enlargement of the aorta. The aorta may develop an aneurysm anywhere along its length, however the most common site is in the abdomen. An aortic aneurysm tends to slowly enlarge over many years and as it gets bigger there is risk that it may burst. A burst aortic aneurysm is an extremely serious problem and many patients will not survive. The aim of treatment is to repair the aneurysm before the risk of it bursting becomes very high, generally repair is considered when the aneurysm reaches 5 – 5.5cm in size.
What are the symptoms of aortic aneurysm?
Most aortic aneurysms cause no symptoms are picked up during ultrasound or CT imaging of the abdomen performed for some other reason.
An aneurysm that is causing pain or discomfort should be urgently assessed by a vascular surgeon.
What causes aortic aneurysms?
Aortic aneurysms are a degenerative condition, occurring more frequently as people get older. They are more common in men, smokers and run in some families. Weakness in the wall of the aorta caused by inflammation and the loss of elastic connective tissues cause it to slowly stretch and enlarge. When the aneurysm gets very large there is a risk that it can burst or rupture.
What are the risk factors for aortic aneurysms?
- Male gender
- Family history
How will my aortic aneurysm be assessed?
- History and examination
- Duplex ultrasound
- CT Angiogram
What treatments are available for aortic aneurysms?
- Ultrasound surveillance
- Endovascular repair – stenting
- Open Repair – surgery