Abdominal Aortic Aneurisms

Rupture Blamed for 15,000 U.S. Deaths Every Year

The occurrence of Abdominal Aortic Aneurisms (AAA) has tripled over the past three decades. This is a frightening statistic for a condition that often occurs without recognizable symptoms.

AAA is the most common type of aortic aneurism. They occur in the abdominal section - lower section - of the aortic artery. Like other aneurisms, AAAs are immediately caused by a weakening in the aortic wall which bulges under the influence of blood pressure.

In the United States ruptured abdominal aortic aneurisms are responsible for an estimated 15,000 deaths per year. This fact makes aneurism rupture one of the leading causes of death in the US.

Who Is Likely To Have An Aortic Aneurism?

Generally speaking, aortic aneurisms occur among the older generation. Specifically, over 75% of diagnosed aortic aneurisms are found in people beyond the age of 60. It has been estimated that one in every 250 people over the age of 50 will die of a ruptured AAA.

Statistics suggest that between two and four percent of the adult population is afflicted with an abdominal aortic aneurism. This is especially true for people with advanced atherosclerosis. Other factors which influence the development of aortic aneurisms are…

  • smoking
  • chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • hypertension
  • high cholesterol

Smokers die four times more often from ruptured aneurisms than nonsmokers.

Males are affected seven times more often than females with white males having the highest incidence.

People with a first-degree relative having an aortic aneurism are also more likely to develop one themselves. This indicates that genetic conditions also influence aneurism development.

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How Can I Know If I Have An Aortic Aneurism?

Unfortunately it is not uncommon to have an aortic aneurism without any symptoms. Often a hidden aneurism is discovered by ultrasounds or CT scans performed in the diagnosis of other conditions.

There are times, however, when an expanding abdominal aortic aneurism does cause very noticeable symptoms. Some examples are…

  • sudden, severe, and constant low back pain
  • flank discomfort
  • abdominal pain
  • groin pain
  • fainting

These symptoms are usually more pronounced in the event of a rupture.

The occurrence of these symptoms, however, is no guarantee of proper diagnosis. Such symptoms are sometimes mistaken for a kidney stone attack or a ruptured disc.

Even in the event of a rupture patients may have normal vital signs with the exception of pain. When a throbbing abdominal mass is present an AAA is almost certain. But this symptom only exists in less than half the cases of an un-ruptured aneurism. It is more common when the aneurism has ruptured.

If the patient is obese detection of a mass is even more difficult. Subtle clues to the existence of an aneurism can include an unexpected audible swishing sound or murmur heard over an artery or vascular channel. It indicates increased turbulence often caused by a partial obstruction. 

For more information on Detecting an Abdominal Aortic Aneurism please click here.

What Happens When Abdominal Aortic Aneurisms Rupture?

If an aneurism does rupture massive internal hemorrhaging is usually the result. Death will normally occur within hours.

Rarely, clotted blood, which lines most aortic aneurisms, can break off and result in an embolus - a clot formed by platelets that blocks a blood vessel. Patients with a ruptured AAA may experience shock as evidenced by…

  • cyanosis - a bluish discoloration
  • mottling - inconsistent skin coloring
  • altered mental status
  • tachycardia - rapid heart rate
  • hypotension - abnormally low blood pressure

At least 65% of patients with ruptured AAA die from sudden cardiovascular collapse before arriving at a hospital. Some survival estimates are even lower. 

Given these facts detection and treatment of abdominal aortic aneurisms prior to rupture is absolutely essential for those who are at risk.Prevention is also essential. There are lifestyle choices that we can make to lessen the likelihood for developing an abdominal aortic aneurism.

Certain conditions that influence the development and rupture of aortic aneurisms are…

For details on the causes, detection methods and treatments of abdominal aortic aneurisms please click the links below. 

Abdominal Aortic Aneurism Causes 

Treatments for Abdominal Aortic Aneurisms 

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