How abdominal aortic aneurysms are diagnosed: a physical examination and imaging such as an ultrasound, CT scan or MRI.
Symptoms of an abdominal aortic aneurysm: The condition is especially dangerous because many people do not know they have it, and time is of the essence when an aneurysm ruptures, Dr. Gloviczki says, adding that a common lack of symptoms makes screening high-risk people even more important.
"The problem is patients don't know they have an abdominal aortic aneurysm and they don't act expeditiously. If you know you have one, you will get to an emergency room," Dr. Gloviczki says.
"The key here is to get to an emergency room. React immediately to any new-onset abdominal or back pain or a fainting spell and dial 911 or get taken to an emergency room very rapidly, because there are always a few hours where we can act and our chances are better to save you," he adds.
How they are treated: What is done depends on the risk of rupture, Dr. Gloviczki says.
Typically, surgery to repair the aneurysm will be recommended if the aneurysm reaches 5.5 centimeters in size, or is growing rapidly, or there are symptoms, he says. Abdominal aortic aneurysms rarely can cause leg pain and build up blood clots that break loose and block arteries in the legs. If none of the above apply, your vascular surgeon may choose instead to keep an eye on it.
Much progress has been made in the past 20 years in abdominal aortic aneurysm repair, Dr. Gloviczki says. Less invasive endovascular repair, in which stents are inserted and no incision is made in the abdomen, is now done in more than 70 percent of patients, he says. As a result, in the past decade, U.S. deaths related to abdominal aortic aneurysm repair surgery have fallen from 4.4 percent to 2.8 percent, a 36 percent decline.
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