What is Abdominal Aortic Aneurysym?

Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm

, or AAA, is a condition characterized by the abnormal dilation or swelling of the aorta or blood vessel supplying blood to the abdomen and the lower body. The blood vessel can be enlarged by more than half its size in diameter. The instances of this condition are seen to occur below the level of the kidneys most of the times.

The condition is mostly seen in older individuals between the age of 65 and 75. It is more prevalent in men and smokers. They are mostly asymptomatic causing no pain or symptoms. However, when the bulging aorta starts pressurizing the surrounding tissue it may cause pain in the abdomen, back and legs. The real problem with it starts when the thinning walls of the blood vessel gives away causing a rupture. The eventual leakage of blood can turn it into a life threatening condition. Blood starts accumulating in the peritoneal cavity ( the cavity between the separating membranes of the abdominal wall and the abdominal organs) and can induce hemorrhagic shock.

The number of deaths caused from ruptured AAA in the United States alone is 15,000 every year.

Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm

Causes of Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm

  • Smoking:

    More than 90% of people with this condition have been smokers.

  • Atherosclerosis:

    The accumulation of fats on the walls of the blood vessels is considered a reason for the weakened walls in them.

  • Genetics:

    It is believed that being born with a wrongly mutated gene could be a cause of developing this condition. A higher incidence of this condition is noted among male members of affected families.

  • Other causes:

    Other causes which increase the risks of the discussed condition are hypertension, infection, hyperlipidemia ( high cholesterol and triglyceride levels), emphysema (lung disease causing shortness of breath), obesity, arteritis ( inflammation in the walls of the arteries).

Symptoms of the condition

The symptoms of the condition include the following:

  • Throbbing and pulsating pain in the abdomen, chest, legs, back or scrotum.
  • Fast pulse or rapid heart rate.
  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Shock.
  • Clammy skin.
  • Cyanosis or the purple or bluish looking skin, especially in infants.

Complications from the condition

When the condition exists with symptoms it poses a greater risk of rupture of the aneurysm and makes surgery inevitable. Following rupture, other conditions like peripheral embolization (blood clots), aortic occlusion ( blockage), formation of abnormal passage ways or fistulaes between the affected blood vessel and other blood vessels or the small intestine (duodenum). It can also contribute to the risks of kidney or renal failure.

Treatment of Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm

  • The size of the aneurysm decides the line of treatment.
  • If the aneurysm is smaller than 5 cm then the doctor may not go for a surgery immediately. He may keep on monitoring the progress of the aneurysm.
  • If the aneurysm is more than 5 cm surgery is the only viable option. The dilated aneurysm is dissected and a synthetic patch tube is grafted into the aorta. The ruptured pouch is closed off with the help of an artificial tube.
  • Medically it is treated with drugs to control blood pressure. It is thought that controlling hypertension will prevent further dilation of the aneurysm.

Prognosis of the condition

If the condition is detected on time and the ruptured aneurysm is repaired the results are good. However, the mortality rates of the said condition are very high. No more than 40% of patients stand a chance of surviving a ruptured AAA.

Prevention of the condition

  • Regular screening for males above 65 is a must. It is important to go for ultrasound screening.
  • Controlling diet and regular exercise can help reduce cholesterol and triglycerides and prevent atherosclerosis which contributes to the risk of the discussed condition.
  • It is extremely important to quit smoking and opt for a healthy and stress free lifestyle.

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