Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm: Understanding a Silent Kiler

June 28, 2024

Some research about abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) indicates the rate is up to four times more prevalent in men than women. However, according to experts at the Memorial Cardiac and Vascular Institute, it's crucial to recognize that AAA can affect individuals of any gender, making it necessary for everyone to be informed about this serious threat to vascular health.

man sitting on couch with stomach pain highlighted in red

What is AAA and Who is At Risk?

It is a condition where a section of the aorta, the main artery of the body, enlarges in the abdominal region. This dilation can lead to a potentially fatal rupture if not properly treated. Numerous risk factors contribute to the development of AAA, including:

  • Age (typically over 60 years)
  • Family history of the condition
  • Smoking
  • Hypertension
  • High cholesterol
  • Infections in the aorta

Of these, smoking stands out as a significant contributor, accounting for 75% of all AAA cases.

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of AAA?

Eduardo Rodríguez Zoppi, MD, chief of Vascular and Endovascular Surgery at Memorial Cardiac & Vascular Institute, part of the Memorial Healthcare System in South Florida, emphasizes the importance of recognizing the signs and symptoms of AAA.

Dr. Eduardo Rodriguez Zoppi

These include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Discomfort in the lower back
  • Abnormal pulse in the abdomen

Often, AAA can be asymptomatic until a rupture occurs, emphasizing the need for early detection.

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends that men aged 65-75 who have a history of smoking undergo screening for AAA, even in the absence of symptoms.

"Abdominal aortic aneurysm is a vascular time bomb that can detonate without warning," warns Dr. Rodríguez Zoppi. "Early detection is our best defense, and education about the risks and symptoms is crucial to saving lives."

Can AAA be Treated?

There are two main treatment options for AAA: endovascular repair and open surgery.

  • Endovascular repair is a minimally invasive approach that involves the insertion of a catheter through an artery in the groin to the aorta, where a metal mesh graft is placed to reinforce the weakened wall, thereby preventing aneurysm rupture. Patients can go home as early as the following day after surgery.
  • Open surgery, on the other hand, involves removing the damaged section of the aorta and replacing it with a graft secured in place with stitches. Full recovery can take several weeks.

Memorial Cardiac & Vascular Institute offers a dedicated aortic aneurysm center that handles a wide range of cases related to aneurysms, including complex ruptures and dissections.

“The patients who place their trust in us for their AAA care exhibit remarkable courage and resilience. We find inspiration in their strength, driving us to provide them with hope and enhance their quality of life through the treatment options we can offer," said Dr. Rodríguez Zoppi.