- Firstly, what is an aorta?
An aorta is the largest and the main artery that carries oxygen-rich blood from the heart to the rest of the body.
- What is an aortic aneurysm?
Normally the walls of the arteries are thick and muscular, allowing them to withstand a large amount of pressure. Occasionally, a weak area may develop in the wall of the artery. This makes the pressure within the artery to push outwards, creating a bulge or ballooned area called aneurysm. Aortic aneurysm is a bulge in a section of aorta; which makes it overstretched and weak. If untreated it can burst and cause serious complications too.
- Where is aneurysm formed?
It can form in any section of the aorta, but they are most common in belly area; this is called abdominal aortic aneurysm. It can also happen in the upper body; this is called thoracic aortic aneurysm.
- What causes aortic aneurysm?
1. Atherosclerosis. This happens when the arteries get narrowed and hardened due to excessive plaque buildup. This disease disrupts the blood flow around the body, as it affects the oxygen and nutrient flow of the aortic wall tissues; resulting in tissue damage and breakdown that may lead to aneurysm.
2. Genetics. Aortic aneurysm can be inherited as a genetic disorder.
3. Aging. The aorta generally becomes less elastic and stiffer with age, increasing the risk of abdominal aortic aneurysm.
4. Infections. Infections on the linings of the walls of the heart can cause aneurysm.
5. Injury. A sudden or intense blow to the chest or abdomen, such as hitting the steering wheel in a car accident, can damage the aorta.
6. Inflammation. Inflammation of the aorta due to various reasons can weaken the aortic wall.
- What are the symptoms?
The symptoms for abdominal aortic aneurysm and thoracic aortic aneurysm may begin to occur when the aneurysm gets bigger and puts pressure on surrounding organs.
1. Abdominal aortic aneurysm symptoms: General belly discomfort, pain in the chest, abdomen, lower back, pain over the kidney- possibly spreading to the groin, buttocks, or legs. The pain may be deep or throbbing, and may last for hours or days. Other possible symptoms include pulsating sensation in the abdomen, a cold foot (a black or blue painful toe due to blockage of blood flow to the legs or feet), and fever or weight loss.
2. Thoracic aortic aneurysm symptoms: Chest pain- could be deep, aching or throbbing, back pain, cough or shortness of breath (if the aneurysm is in the area of the lungs), hoarseness in voice or difficulty or pain while swallowing.
- When to call a doctor?
If an aortic aneurysm bursts, or ruptures there is sudden severe pain, an extreme drop in blood pressure, and signs of shock. In this case, immediate medical treatment is required, so you need to be rushed to the hospital.
- What are the examinations & tests involved?
X-ray, Ultrasound, Echocardiogram and Screening tests (taken for other reasons). Abdominal aneurysm is at times felt during a routine physical examination too. The major tests include:
1. Abdominal Ultrasound, Computed Tomography (CT) and Magnetic Resonance Angiogram (MRA) for Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm
2. Trans thoracic Echocardiogram (TTE), Trans Esophageal Echocardiogram (TEE), Angiogram for Thoracic Aortic Aneurysm.
- What are the usual Treatment options?
If you are diagnosed with aortic aneurysm, you need close medical monitoring and possibly surgery or treatment accompanied by major lifestyle management.
First thing after the diagnosis; your doctor will evaluate, whether you need surgery, if yes, whether you will be able to withstand the surgery; or whether you can avoid surgery. Factors like the shape and flexibility of the aorta and heart valves are considered in deciding how to treat aortic aneurysm.
1. Surgery: Traditional Surgery or Endovascular repair (with or without a stent), Partial Bypass
Traditional (Open) Surgery: The damaged portion of the blood vessel is replaced with a man made graft, depending on the severity and area of the aneurysm.
Endovascular Repair: A tube called stent graft is inserted through an artery in the groin. This stent graft makes a bridge between the healthy parts of the aorta.
2. Medical Treatments like beta-blockers are advised for low risk cases. In almost all the cases lifestyle management is recommended such as healthy heart diet, limiting alcohol and exercises that raise your heart beats considerably.
3. Interventional Radiology Technique: The use of imaging techniques that guide catheters and wires inside the body to open obstructed vessels. By using minute incisions, our minimally invasive procedures helps your hospital stay shorter, your recovery faster only a minimal pain.
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