Aortic Aneurysm can occur even without knowing you have it.

What is an Aneurysm?

An aneurysm is an abnormal dilatation or swelling arising from an artery. It can affect a number of arteries, most commonly the aorta, the main artery of the abdomen. The common location is just below the arteries to the kidneys. Aneurysms may also affect the iliac arteries in the pelvis.

How do you know if you have an aneurysm?

Most people with aneurysms are unaware they have one. It usually produces little, if no symptoms, and is most often discovered by chance, on a scan undertaken for other reasons. An aneurysm is sometimes detected on routine examination. Occasionally, an aneurysm may cause pain in the back or side.

When this occurs, it is recommended you see your doctor immediately.

What will happen if I ignore the aneurysm?

If left unattended, serious or life-threating complications can occur.

Untreated, the aortic aneurysm will continue to expand and ultimately burst. The rate of expansion is variable. The risk of rupture is directly related to the size of the aneurysm. Aneurysms with diameters under 5cm have a very low risk of rupture, though this can vary depending on other factors, such as the shape of the aneurysm.

When should an aortic aneurysm be treated?

Intervention is usually but not always recommended when the aneurysm exceeds 5 – 5.5cm diameter. The purpose of intervention is to prevent rupture or alleviate symptoms.

What happens if the aneurysm ruptures?

Sudden onset of severe back or side pain may be an indicator that the aneurysm is about to rupture. Immediate transfer to hospital is vital for survival. Rupture can cause severe shock through blood loss. A high mortality rate (greater than 50%) is associated with rupture, which underlines the importance of early diagnosis and treatment.

How are aneurysms treated? (see treatment for more details)

Open Repair – This involves open surgery through an abdominal incision. This procedure has been performed for over 60 years and still has an important role today with excellent outcomes, both short term and long term. It involves the replacement of the aneurysm with an artificial Dacron graft.

Endovascular Repair – This technique has become the treatment of choice in most patients undergoing aneurysm repair. This occurs in the catheter laboratory using a stent-graft, that is delivered into the aneurysm from the femoral (groin) arteries. This excludes the aneurysm from the circulation, and at the same time, allows to maintain normal blood flow to the lower limbs.

What determines which procedure is appropriate?

This decision is made by your surgeon. It depends on several anatomical factors outlined on the abdominal CT scan.

To find out more about open repair of aortic aneurysm, CLICK HERE!