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What Is Aortic Aneurysm?

Radiology doctor examining at chest and heart x ray

What is an aortic aneurysm?

  1. Has a wide array of potential causes
  2. It can develop without symptoms
  3. It is fatal once ruptured
  4. The importance of early detection
  5. Can be treated through surgery and medication

The aorta is the largest artery that carries blood away from the heart towards the rest of your body to carry numerous functions. If you’re wondering about what is an aortic aneurysm, it is a condition wherein an abnormal swelling or bulge occurs anywhere in the aorta.

An aortic aneurysm is typically not a problem. However, it can be fatal if dissection occurs (a condition wherein the artery wall splits, allowing blood to leak) or it ruptures. Continue reading on to learn more about this.

Has A Wide Array of Potential Causes

The main cause of an aortic aneurysm is currently unknown. However, several studies claim that 80% of its cause results from the hardening of the arteries, also known as atherosclerosis. This condition develops when there is cholesterol and fat build up inside the arteries. Over time, this restricts proper blood flow and causes the walls of the aorta to weaken.

Certain factors have been shown to increase the risk for aortic aneurysm as well. They include the following:

  • High blood pressure – the increased blood pressure weakens the aorta walls
  • High blood cholesterol – the build-up of cholesterol can cause atherosclerosis
  • Smoking – can directly damage the walls of your aorta, making them more likely to swell
  • Vascular inflammation – traumas such as car accidents, certain diseases, and conditions like vasculitis can cause inflamed blood vessels
  • Marfan syndrome and Ehlers Danlos syndrome – inherited connective tissue disorders

It Can Develop Without Symptoms

An ambulance taking a patient to the emergency room

The biggest factor that makes an aortic aneurysm concerning is that it can develop without showing any symptoms — making it difficult to detect. In most cases, patients only discover they have the condition during other unrelated medical examinations.

If the aneurysm presses against nearby tissues, only then can patients notice symptoms like tenderness or pain in the chest, back pain, and shortness of breath.

On the other hand, if the aneurysm ruptures, you may feel a sharp and sudden pain that radiates in the back, low blood pressure, loss of consciousness, trouble swallowing, paralysis, intense chest or jaw pain, and difficulty breathing. Additional symptoms may include clammy skin, vomiting, nausea, and even shock.

Once any of this happens, head to the hospital immediately as it can be life-threatening.

It Is Fatal Once Ruptured

Some aortic aneurysms never rupture. Some start small and others expand quickly over time. However, when it is ruptured, it can cause problems such as heart attacks, kidney damage, stroke, and death.

In aortic dissection, a tear occurs in the aorta wall. This causes bleeding into and along the aorta wall. An aortic dissection is a potentially life-threatening emergency, depending on where in the aorta it occurs. This further stresses the importance of treating an aortic aneurysm for it prevents dissection.

The Importance of Early Detection

A doctor looking through the results of an MRI

As stated earlier, aortic aneurysms develop without any symptoms. We cannot stress enough the importance of early detection. In the US, it is recommended that men aged 65 to 75 years old who smoke or have heart-related conditions get regular aortic aneurysm screening.

Your doctors can sometimes detect an abdominal aortic aneurysm during a routine exam. However, an aortic aneurysm can be diagnosed with tests such as an X-ray, an echocardiogram, CT scan, or ultrasound.

Once they find a bulge, they would often monitor it on an annual basis for signs of growth.

Can Be Treated Through Surgery and Medication

The two main treatments for aortic aneurysms are surgery and medication. You might be prescribed medications for high cholesterol and high blood pressure to reduce the risks of rupture. However, if the swelling is already wide-scaling, you will be asked to go through surgery to repair the affected sections of the aorta.

Key Takeaway

Now that you know what is an aortic aneurysm, consider getting regularly screened. This is the key to diagnosing the aneurysm early and receiving treatment immediately if needed.

Here at the Perpetual Help Medical Center-Las Pinas, we are equipped to perform highly advanced cardiovascular care procedures. As one of the most advanced facilities in the country for performing open-heart surgeries, our medical professionals offer to repair congenital defects and valves, coronary bypass grafting (CABG), carotid endarterectomy, aortic aneurysm repair, AV fistula creation, and other vascular services.

Contact our staff to learn more about it. Call us at (+632) 8874-ALTA | (+632) 8874-8515 or visit us at Alabang-Zapote Rd., Pamplona III Las Pinas City, Philippines 1740.

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