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 aotic 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).
Prognosis for an AAA or TAA
AAA occurs in about 1% of men who are 60 years of age or less. The frequency increases to about 6% of men by the age of 80. The incidence is slightly less in women.
TAA is less common, affecting less than 1% of men and women; however, a rupture of a thoracic aneurysm has a greater than 97% fatality rate.
Most experts agree that over the past 30 years both thoracic and abdominal aortic aneurysms have become increasingly common.
The risk of abdominal aortic aneurysm increases with age over 60 years. Other risk factors include:
- Smoking history
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Male gender
AAA’s develop slowly over years and usually have no symptoms at all while developing.
An aortic aneurysm may be discovered by chance during a medical exam or on a CT or Ultrasound scan. They 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 prognosis for an AAA or TAA isn’t always fatal if detected and repaired in time.
- Next page: Detection & Monitoring