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Essam El-Kady, chief of Vascular Surgery at the El Maadi Armed Forces Hospital in Cairo, Egypt operating with Dr. Brantigan. Click to enlarge.

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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.

Symptoms

  • 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 strong pulse.
  • 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.

Diagnosis

1. A complete examination - This is a painless and simple test by your doctor.

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.

Treatment

Medical Management

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.

Surgical Management

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.

Endovascular Treatment

Some patients with aortic aneurysms are candidates for stent grafts.


2003-2004 Dr. Charles Brantigan,  Vascular Surgery Practice
2253 Downing Street, Denver, CO 80205
303.830.8822 fax: 303.830.7068 or 800.992.4676  inquiries@drbrantigan.com

Last Updated: 07/15/2004