What is an aortic aneurysm?
The aorta is the largest and most important blood vessel in the body, supplying blood from the heart to the legs and organs.
An abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) is a dilation or bulging of the aorta in the abdomen. If the swelling in the artery grows too large it can rupture causing a life threatening medical emergency. Ruptured aortic aneurysms are fatal in 80-90% of cases, with most people dying before they even reach a hospital.
There are usually no symptoms, however abdominal aortic aneurysms can be detected and monitored using a simple ultrasound scan. Early detection and monitoring of the AAA is key as it allows your doctor to plan corrective treatment. Once the AAA reaches a certain size a surgical repair can be performed. Advances in endovascular techniques enable most patients with AAA to be successfully treated with a minimally invasive stent graft.
Aortic aneurysms are very common, affecting approximately 4 - 7 % of men and 1 - 2 % of women. Screening of men aged over 65 years has been shown to reduce aneurysm related mortality.
Risk factors for aortic aneurysm:
- Scott RA, Wilson NM, Ashton HA, Kay DN. Influence of screening on the incidence of ruptured abdominal aortic aneurysm: 5-year results of a randomized controlled study. Br J Surg 1995;82:1066–70.
- Lindholt JS, Juul S, Fasting H, Henneberg EW. Screening for abdominal aortic aneurysms: single centre randomised controlled trial. BMJ 2005;330:750.
- Norman PE, Jamrozik K, Lawrence-Brown MM, et al. Population based randomised controlled trial on impact of screening on mortality from abdominal aortic aneurysm. BMJ 2004;329:1259.
- Ashton HA, Buxton MJ, Day NE, et al. The Multicentre Aneurysm Screening Study (MASS) into the effect of abdominal aortic aneurysm screening on mortality in men: a randomised controlled trial. Lancet 2002;360:1531–9.
- Thompson SG, Ashton HA, Gao L, Buxton MJ, Scott RA; Multicentre Aneurysm Screening Study (MASS) Group. Final follow-up of the Multicentre Aneurysm Screening Study (MASS) randomized trial of abdominal aortic aneurysm screening. Br J Surg 2012;99:1649–56.
- Bengtsson H, Bergqvist D. Ruptured abdominal aortic aneurysm: a population-based study. J Vasc Surg 1993;18:74–80.
- Shimizu, K. (2006). Inflammation and Cellular Immune Responses in Abdominal Aortic Aneurysms. Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, And Vascular Biology, 26(5), 987-994. http://dx.doi.org/10.1161/01.atv.0000214999.12921.4f