The aorta is the largest blood vessel present in human body. Aortic aneurysms occur when a weak part of the aorta expands like a balloon, forming a blood-filled sac.
Mostly, aneurysms cause no symptoms, but they can be life-threatening if they become too large and rupture, or burst.
Types of Aortic Aneurysm
The type of aortic aneurysm you are having depends on where it is located. They can occur anywhere along the aorta, from your heart all the way down to your abdomen, just below the kidneys.
- Abdominal aneurysms occur in the abdomen, below the arteries to both kidneys
- Ascending aortic aneurysms occur on the aorta as it leaves the heart
- Arch aneurysms occur on the part of the aorta that curves around the chest near where the arteries extend to the head and arms
- Thoracic aneurysms occur in the chest
- Thoraco-abdominal aneurysms occur on the thoracic (chest) aorta extending into the abdomen
Causes of Aortic Aneurysm
Doctors don’t know what causes aortic aneurysms. In some cases, they believe genetics play a role because aortic aneurysms can run in families. About 20% of people diagnosed with an aortic aneurysm also have a parent, sibling or child who has been or will be diagnosed with one.
Changes in the activity of certain elements within the aorta are thought to weaken the wall and lead to the formation of an aneurysm. Other risk factors include:
- Cigarette smoking
- High blood pressure
- Chronic pulmonary disease (COPD)
Symptoms of Aortic Aneurysm
Most aortic aneurysms cause no symptoms. In many instances, your doctor discovers you have one symptom after performing a CT scan or ultrasound to check on an unrelated condition. In certain cases, patients may experience some symptoms. These include:
- Abdominal and back pain
- High blood pressure
- Pain after eating
- Weight loss
- Urinary tract infection
- Poor circulation to organs and lower extremities
If an aneurysm has ruptured or burst, patients may experience any of the following symptoms:
- Severe and sudden abdominal pain
- Severe chest and back pain
- Dramatic decrease in blood pressure
Treatments for Aortic Aneurysm
If you have a small aortic aneurysm, our doctors may recommend a “watch and wait” approach. But medium and large aneurysms often require immediate treatment to repair them fast before they rupture.
Hospitals offer comprehensive options for treating aneurysms, from traditional, open surgery to the latest advancements in minimally invasive, endovascular repair. They also offer a procedure that combines these two approaches, called hybrid repair.
Patients with an aneurysm located along their aorta near where it branches off to the kidneys may be candidates for fenestrated endovascular repair, an innovative surgical approach only performed by surgeons with special training.
The best option for you will depend on a number of factors, such as the size and location of your aneurysm, your overall health and age and, if possible, personal preference.