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Aortic Aneurysms

What is an Aneurysm?

An aneurysm is a weak, bulging area in an artery. If it occurs in the abdominal aorta, the large artery that travels from the heart to the chest and abdomen, it can be a serious health hazard. An abdominal aortic aneurysm that continues to expand is at risk for rupturing, which can be a life-threatening event that requires emergency surgery.

For men over age 50, a ruptured abdominal aortic aneurysm is the 10th leading cause of death.

Blood clots can also form as a result of an abdominal aortic aneurysm. The clots can block the blood from reaching the muscles, tissues and organs, causing pain and numbness, as well as the potential for permanent tissue damage and limb amputation.

Who is affected?

Men age 60 and over who smoke and have a family history of abdominal aortic aneurysm should undergo an ultrasound screening exam to evaluate their risk for the condition.

What are the symptoms?

The most common symptoms are a pulsing sensation in the abdominal area near the navel, abdominal tenderness and back pain.

However, many people may not notice any symptoms until the condition is advanced and the aneurysm ruptures. Call 911 if you experience sudden, severe pain in the abdomen or lower back, weakness and dizziness, which may indicate that the aneurysm has ruptured.

What puts me at risk?

While the exact cause of abdominal aortic aneurysm is still somewhat of a mystery, there are a number of risk factors, including:

  • Age over 60
  • Being male (men have five times the risk of women)
  • Tobacco use (both cigarettes and chewing tobacco)
  • Family history
  • Personal history of heart disease or peripheral artery disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Infection or inflammation of the aorta

How is it diagnosed?

An abdominal aortic aneurysm may first be identified during a physical exam. To confirm the diagnosis, Dr. Lam may have you undergo one of several non-invasive, painless imaging exams, such as an abdominal ultrasound, CT scan or MRI (magnetic resonance imaging). All three exams are performed on an outpatient basis.

How is it treated?

An abdominal aortic aneurysm is not a condition that will improve over time. However, if the aneurysm is small, your doctor may suggest taking a “watchful” approach with frequent check-ups every six months to one year.

An aneurysm that is larger than two inches, that causes symptoms, is leaking fluid or has expanded over time, will require treatment. Treatment options include endovascular stent graft or open abdominal vascular surgery.

Endovascular Stent Graft Dallas

An endovascular Stent Graft is a minimally invasive procedure in which Dr. Lam makes a tiny incision in the groin area and inserts a long-narrow catheter into the artery. A small plastic device or graft is attached to the end of the catheter and guided to the aneurysm site.

The graft is then permanently attached to the blood vessel walls to take the place of the damaged abdominal aorta. Watch the animation below to better understand this procedure.

Open Abdominal Vascular Surgery Dallas

During traditional or “open” surgery, the surgeon will make an incision in your abdomen and replace the damaged area of your aorta with a small plastic device or graft. The graft is shaped like a tube and allows blood to flow through unobstructed.

The procedure is very effective but requires a four-to-seven day hospital stay. Full recovery may take up to three months.

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