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Could You Have An Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm?

Updated on August 1, 2012

Sonogram

Sonogram showing aneurysm...large black circle right in the middle.
Sonogram showing aneurysm...large black circle right in the middle. | Source

Tick...Tick...Tick...Deep within your body there could be a time bomb silently ticking away. It's called an Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm or as referred to in the medical profession a "Triple A" or "AAA". ANY aneurysm is a time bomb in a sense. It is a bulging in a part of an artery wall that can rupture causing bleeding and/or hemorrhaging and often results in death. Abdominal Aortic Aneurysms are the most common of the aortic aneyrysms. What is an Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm? It is a bulging in the section of the aorta that extends through the abdomen.

It is a scary diagnosis at any time, but finding it and dealing with it is much better than the alternative. You often hear of young people playing sports and suddenly just dropping dead. After autopsy the diagnosis is an aneurysm somewhere in their body. The unknown aneurysm bursts or pops and it is almost always fatal.

Most people have no symptoms and never know they have one! When people are diagnosed it is usually because they have undergone tests for another reason and an aneurysm is found. In some instances if the Triple A is large enough abdominal aortic aneurysm symptoms can include pain in the back or legs, cough, bowel irregularities, pulsing in the abdomen, unexplained cough, and even chest pain.

A Triple A can be caused by many things including; family history, smoking, trauma, inflammatory disease, high blood pressure, male gender, emphysema, and high cholesterol. It is most often seen in men over 60, however, if you and your family have been lucky enough to escape this diagnosis you may never even be aware it even exists. Or, as is the case in my husband's family, if you've never heard of it until one of your brothers has one at age 63, it can be quite a learning experience, especially when you find out you have one over eight and three quarter centimeters in size!

The Aorta is the largest blood vessel in your body. It extends from the heart down into the legs and carries blood to your organs and extremities.

Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm

Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm bulging in the artery
Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm bulging in the artery | Source
Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm with stent in place
Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm with stent in place | Source

A Triple A can be treated conservatively if it is smaller than 5 cm. Regular monitoring and sometimes medication is all that is needed to make sure the Triple A is not getting any larger. These smaller aneurysms often stay the same size and never grow. It is the ones larger than 5 cm that are cause for concern. These aneurysms are like a balloon blown up too far and ready to pop. You never know for sure at which point they will pop so rather than wait for them to pop they need to be treated surgically and if they are large enough that means immediately. The immediate surgery will prevent the aneurysm from popping/bursting.

Team approach is used in surgery as it is a very high surgical risk. There are two types of surgery to repair the Triple A, one is called aneurysmectomy and grafting the other is endovascular stent grafting.

Aneurysmectomy is the most invasive of the two surgeries due to the opening of the chest and abdomen. In addition to being the most invasive it is the more dangerous of the two and puts you at a higher risk. You are weak after surgery, the hospital stay is at least 10 days (if all goes well) and your recovery period is lengthy.

IF you are a candidate (not everyone can have this surgery) the endovascular stent grafting is a much less invasive surgery. Two incisions are made, one on each side of the groin area. A stent is placed on the aorta extending down as far as needs be. It bypasses the aneurysm thereby eliminating it from receiving any blood flow. This procedure requires less time in the hospital and the recover period is shorter.

Left to you, I'm sure you would choose the latter, however, the decision is not yours, but your surgeon's. You also need to find a good surgeon, one with a good reputation and a good team. As mentioned earlier when I said "team approach", this surgery is performed by a team of surgeons, not just one, so knowing that your surgeon surrounds himself with good people leads to a better team for you! You can go to Pubmed.gov to see if your surgeon has published any papers on the subject. It's always a good sign to know your surgeon has published works and is keeping up on procedures.


Aneurysm Ruptuer

Abdominal Aneurysm rupture
Abdominal Aneurysm rupture | Source

Your age and general health are also considerations when your surgeon chooses how he will operate.

As I mentioned earlier we are now aware of the Triple A in our family. One of my brother-in-laws developed it about a year ago. His is about 3 cm and is being monitored every six months. Another of my brother-in-laws was not so lucky. He was having some back pain that increased to the point where he thought he should go to the emergency room. They immediately flew him to Albany Medical Center where surgery was performed to repair a leaking abdominal aortic aneurysm. Following these two incidents my husband decided to be screened to see if he had one.

We went to a testing center where they were performing a few tests for the general public. Stroke/Carotid Artery screening, Heart Rhythm Screen, Peripheral Artery Disease Screening, and Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm Screening. They did a sonogram and found that my husband had a 7.5 cm Triple A. They advised us to see our own physician immediately or go to the Emergency Room as this was a critical situation.

We drove to our doctor's office and explained the situation. We were taken in to see the doctor immediately, though our doctor wasn't there another doctor in the practice saw us. He was wonderful and explained we needed to see a surgeon right away. He tried contacting the surgeon but as luck would have it the surgeon's phones weren't working, seriously! So we went home and tried to call the surgeon ourselves at a later time. When we reached the surgeon he said go to the Emergency Room now. I will call ahead and have everything ready for a CAT Scan. It has been my experience that sonograms show the Triple A to be smaller than it actually is. He said he would meet us there in about an hour. True to his word, he was there when they performed the CAT Scan and he was right, the Triple A was not 7.5 cm but 8 - 3/4 cms. He explained surgery was necessary right away. However, being a weekend he couldn't get a good team together. Since he is a well-known specialist operating in several different areas he said the only times he would be in this area would be Wednesday in a nearby city or Friday in our own local hospital. We told him either would be okay as long as he was doing the surgery. As I write this we are waiting for his call to let us know which day the surgery will be. I will add a postscript noting how the surgery went in the meantime, if ANYONE in your family has a Triple A, get to a screening facility or a doctor to be checked out.

Copyright Tillsontitan - All Rights Reserved

Endovascular Stent Grafting

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    • tillsontitan profile image
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      Mary Craig 4 years ago from New York

      Oh WeepingHeart, I will keep your brother-in-law in my prayers. Aneurysms are truly silent killers and whatever we can do to prevent them should definitely be done.

    • profile image

      WeepingHeart 4 years ago

      My brother-in-law went into surgery last Wednesday for 4 aneurysms.

      He is still in ICU today. If he had known to go for an abdominal screening years ago they could have caught them before they were 5 - 13 cm. Please take the advice of this wonderful blog and get a screening. He is not doing well. Tomorrow they will be doing a CAT scan on his brain. How sad.

    • tillsontitan profile image
      Author

      Mary Craig 5 years ago from New York

      Thanks for the vote and only too happy to have you stop by at anytime. I certainly do know what you mean...its written in that big book in the sky!

    • pagesvoice profile image

      Dennis L. Page 5 years ago from New York/Pennsylvania border

      Voted up, useful and interesting. Even though you wrote this several months ago, I just had the honor of reading your detailed and knowledgeable article. I have known people working out and jogging who have collapsed and died on the spot because of an aneurysm. It is scary stuff for sure. It is like we are an appliance and then someone pulls the plug and without warning we are no more. Precautions and medical testing are good, but in the final analysis it is never up to us, if you know what I mean.

    • tillsontitan profile image
      Author

      Mary Craig 5 years ago from New York

      I can't answer that Jerry, I'm not a doctor. I think the answer is no but I'm not really sure.

    • profile image

      Jerry 5 years ago

      Can I get AAA from getting hit and getting up 15 feet from where I was standing if you can help me pls email me jerrypoohbear@yahoo.com

    • tillsontitan profile image
      Author

      Mary Craig 5 years ago from New York

      Thanks Midget...it can be a very scary and very serious condition. We were lucky! Glad you enjoyed the read.

    • midget38 profile image

      Michelle Liew 5 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks for bringing this lesser known disorder to light, Mary! Aneurysms are always so scary. Thanks to both yourself and your hubby for sharing it with us! Blessings to both of you! It was very informative read, made more so because of personal experience!

    • tillsontitan profile image
      Author

      Mary Craig 5 years ago from New York

      Glad I could provide your learning lesson for the day. They can occur in 2 to 13 percent of men...not a high incidence rate but one serious enough to watch.

    • Sunshine625 profile image

      Linda Bilyeu 5 years ago from Orlando, FL

      Very useful and interesting Mary. I never heard of this disorder until now. Kudos to your husband for being pro-active with his health. I'm sure you had a lot to do with that, kudos to you also! Thanks for my learning lesson of the day!

    • tillsontitan profile image
      Author

      Mary Craig 5 years ago from New York

      Actually when they are small they are just monitored. It is when they get larger that stents are used. The main thing is to catch them before they leak or break. Good luck with your sonogram Sherry!

    • profile image

      SherryT 5 years ago

      Thanks for this article. My dad and his dad both died of an abdominal aneurysm when they were about my age, so I asked my internist yesterday if I should be tested.

      I'm scheduled for an ultrasound in a week. I have no symptoms so far so I'm anxious but not like I would be if I were experiencing a symptom like back pain.

      Thanks for all of the additional information! I'm relieved to read here that when AAA's are small enough, their growth can be stopped endoscopically (sp?) using stents.

    • tillsontitan profile image
      Author

      Mary Craig 5 years ago from New York

      Unfortunately my knowledge was first-hand but when I realized how many people have this and aren't aware I thought it would make a good hub. Thank you Vinaya.

    • tillsontitan profile image
      Author

      Mary Craig 5 years ago from New York

      Unfortunately my knowledge was first-hand but when I realized how many people have this and aren't aware I thought it would make a good hub. Thank you Vinaya.

    • Vinaya Ghimire profile image

      Vinaya Ghimire 5 years ago from Nepal

      I did not know about this disease. Thanks for sharing your knowledge.

    • tillsontitan profile image
      Author

      Mary Craig 5 years ago from New York

      Effie so many people overlook this. His fourth brother had a sonogram yesterday and is waiting to hear the results! The sudden death statistics of so many from aneurysms is higher than most people think. Believe me, we're relieved too!

    • fpherj48 profile image

      Paula 5 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

      Larry and his brothers are certainly classic examples of the existence of familial health issues. This is an excellent story for people to understand how important it is to know about medical hisory of relatives. The whole theory on saving lives is based on being proactive and one step ahead. I'm relieved for both of you.

    • tillsontitan profile image
      Author

      Mary Craig 5 years ago from New York

      Thanks Effie. It was a horrible seven days until the surgery was over. Certainly a Guardian Angel and/or a message from God to have it checked. Thanks for the hugs, I need them ;) He's doing well. His fourth brother had a sonogram today so we're waiting to hear.

    • fpherj48 profile image

      Paula 5 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

      GOOD GRIEF!! I looked this hub up after you told me about Larry's "surgery." Are you KIDDING me! How lucky is it that your husband "decided" to get checked out?!

      This is what I would call one of those gifts from a Guardian Angel. I can only imagine how totally relieved you both are right about now.

      I send best wishes to Larry for a complete recovery and healthy days ahead....and hugs to you, Tillie...hope your stress has lightened!

    • tillsontitan profile image
      Author

      Mary Craig 5 years ago from New York

      Thank you for the prayer Thumbi.

    • thumbi7 profile image

      JR Krishna 5 years ago from India

      All the very best!

      I will pray for his fast recovery

      May God bless you!

    • tillsontitan profile image
      Author

      Mary Craig 5 years ago from New York

      Thanks Thumbi, he's doing pre-op today with surgery tomorrow.

    • thumbi7 profile image

      JR Krishna 5 years ago from India

      Very comprehensive information on abdominal aortic aneurysm.

      Good that you had a check up.

      Good luck with your husband's surgery:)

    • tillsontitan profile image
      Author

      Mary Craig 5 years ago from New York

      I know Eclectic. My husband's surgery is scheduled for Wednesday and though we are nervous we are happy we found out. Thanks for the vote!

    • EclecticFusion profile image

      Lisa 5 years ago from Tennessee

      Wow! This is a very informative hub and I thank you for it! It's scary to think about, but knowing is better than not knowing! Voted interesting, useful and up!

    • tillsontitan profile image
      Author

      Mary Craig 5 years ago from New York

      Hope you never have to!

    • profile image

      diogenes 5 years ago

      Good article and if I survive the fright, will add this to my list of worries.

      Bob

    • tillsontitan profile image
      Author

      Mary Craig 5 years ago from New York

      Happyboomernurse I'm very flattered to have you tell me this is a comprehensive hub! It is just in the last three months that this has really hit home. When I read this is what John Ritter died from I thought it would be a good idea to write this hub. Thanks for the votes!

    • Happyboomernurse profile image

      Gail Sobotkin 5 years ago from South Carolina

      This is a very comprehensive, informative and potentially life saving hub.

      Thanks for posting it on Hub Pages.

      Voted up, useful and interesting.