Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm
The aorta is the largest artery in the body. It starts in the
heart, travels through the chest, (thoracic aorta), and through the
abdomen, (abdominal aorta). At the level of the umbilicus, (belly
button), this artery divides. These two arteries are called iliac
arteries. They provide blood flow channels to the legs. The usual
diameter of a normal aorta is about 1 inch.
An aneurysm is a bulging or ballooning of an artery. This results
in weakened walls that can rupture without warning. If rupture
occurs, massive bleeding results and death follows. Repair of an
aneurysm is done by replacing the aorta and/or iliac arteries with a
bypass graft or by inserting a 'stent graft' from within the vessel.
- Abnormal Forceful Pulse - This is felt just above the
umbilicus. A trained professional can feel and measure the
approximate diameter of this artery. Sometimes people mention that
a book rested on the stomach, while lying down, moves from the
- Back Pain: Occasionally, a person will experience a new onset
of back pain, which can be moderate to severe, and is not
explained by back injury.
- Most often, there are no symptoms and the aneurysm is
discovered during a routine physical or when an x-ray of some
other body part is taken. AAA runs in families and occurs more
often in older patients.
1. A complete examination - This is a painless and simple test by
2. Ultrasound testing -This is a painless test that allows the
physician to view the aorta and measure its diameter.
3. CAT Scan of the Aorta - This is a very accurate x-ray for
measurement of the diameter of the aorta.
This consists of monitoring a small aneurysm. Your doctor will
have an ultrasound or CT Scan done about every six months. If an
increase in the diameter occurs, then surgery may be discussed.
The physician will suggest that a person with this condition stop
smoking, control his blood pressure and generally improve his health
with better nutrition and exercise.
Larger aneurysms tend to rupture producing rapid death. These
aneurysms need to be repaired using a major operation or using a
stent graft. In the case of the major operation, Dr Brantigan is
experienced in using a minimal incision technique.
The length of surgery is approximately 4 hours.
Hospital stay is usually 4-7 days.
Continued yearly ultrasound follow-up is recommended.
Some patients with aortic aneurysms are candidates for stent