What is Aortic Aneurysm?
Aortic aneurysm is a condition characterized by an abnormal bulging of a section of the large blood vessel called the aorta. The aorta is the major blood vessel that carries oxygenated blood from the heart to the different parts of the body. Aortic aneurysm may be classified by location as:
- Abdominal aortic aneurysm: The aneurysm occurs in the section of the aorta that passes through the abdomen.
- Thoracic aortic aneurysm: This type is a bulging in the aorta that passes through the chest cavity.
Causes of Aortic Aneurysm
The most important cause of an aortic aneurysm is due to the weakening of the arterial wall. Some of the factors that can lead to this weakening include:
- Family history
- Physical trauma to the abdomen or chest
- Marfan syndrome
- Inflammatory disease
- High cholesterol
- Coronary artery disease
Symptoms of Aortic Aneurysm
Most patients with an aortic aneurysm do not have any symptoms in the early stages. Some of the common symptoms include:
- Groin pain
- Pale skin
- Nausea and vomiting
- Shortness of breath
Diagnosis of Aortic Aneurysm
Your doctor will review your medical history and symptoms and based on this a physical examination of the chest and abdomen will be performed. Your doctor may also recommend the following diagnostic test:
- MRI Scan: This is an imaging study that uses a large magnetic field and radio waves to detect any damage to the soft tissues.
- CT Scan: This scan uses multipleX-rays to produce detailed cross-sectional images of the chest.
- Ultrasound: This study uses high-frequency sound waves to produce images of the tissues.
- Chest X-rays: This study uses electromagnetic beams to produce images of the bones and organs of the chest.
- Echocardiogram: This test helps to view the heart’s size, structure, and motion using sound waves.
Treatment for Aortic Aneurysm
The main goal of treatment is preventing the rupture of the aneurysm. The most common treatment methods include:
- Beta-blockers: These enhance heart function by reducing blood pressure.
- Angiotensin II receptor blockers (ARBs): These supply the benefits of ACE for patients who cannot take ACE inhibitors.
- Statins: This helps to reduce the blockages in arteries by lowering the blood cholesterol.
If conservative methods failed to improve the symptoms, surgery will be recommended this includes:
- Endovascular stent placement: A small incision will be made in your groin area and a stent is advanced through the vessel and placed in the bulging area of the aorta to reinforce it and prevent rupture.
- Open surgical repair: An incision will be made in the area where the aneurysm is present; your doctor will remove the aneurysm in the aorta and replace it with a synthetic tube (graft).