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An abdominal aortic aneurysm is a focal stretching or ballooning of a blood vessel (usually an artery).
The aorta is the largest artery in the body, the main line for blood pumping out of the heart. An abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) is a ballooning of that large artery in the abdomen, a dangerous condition. A thoracic aortic aneurysm (TAA) is a similar ballooning of the artery in the chest. Without proper detection and repair, the prognosis for AAA or TAA is fatal. The most common cause is atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries, associated with cholesterol deposits).
When an aneurysm reaches a diameter of over five centimeters (about two inches), the risk of fatal rupture increases. A rupturing aneurysm may cause symptoms of abdominal pain or rigidity, rapid heart rate, nausea and anxiety. A rapid loss of blood pressure (shock) may follow.
An aortic aneurysm may be discovered by chance during a medical exam or on a CT or Ultrasound scan. Aneurysms may also be detected in older or high-risk individuals by a screening program. If detected in a timely manner, the prognosis for an AAA or TAA can be positive. To ensure this, the interventional radiologist will follow it at regular intervals with an imaging surveillance program (CT or ultrasound scans every six months) and repair it before it becomes lethal.
The risk of abdominal aortic aneurysm increases with age over 60 years. Other risk factors include:
Endovascular Stent Graft Repair of AAA
At The Chester County Hospital, peripheral vascular surgeons repair aortic aneurysms with a minimally invasive treatment procedure called Endovascular Stent Graft Repair. This technique is performed by sliding catheters into the aneurysm to release a new lining that pops open excluding the aneurysm from the circulation. The catheters are inserted through small incisions in the groin area, but no large abdominal incision is needed.
A tiny metal and fabric device or stent is threaded through the blood vessel from a small incision, usually in the groin and is fastened to the inner vessel wall just above the level of weakened aortic wall to help support the blood vessel. This reduces strain on the existing aneurysm and can prevent a full-blown aneurysm from developing again.
Stenting is not only much faster than conventional surgery, it offers a much shorter recovery time and fewer complications.
Last Updated: 11/9/2011