Aortic Aneurysms – What Is It And How To Handle It

Many individuals walk around each do and unbeknownst to them they may be a victim or potential victim of an aortic aneurysm. Different types of aneurysms exist. There are aortic aneurysms, brain aneurysms, abdominal aortic aneurysms, as well as, thoracic aortic aneurysms.

What is an aortic aneurysm: An aortic aneurysm is an area of weakness in a bulging vessel. Due to the bulging vessel, it makes the aorta weak. If serious enough, the aorta can burst. If this happens, serious bleeding will occur and death can happen very quickly.

What is an aorta: An aorta is goes from the heart down towards the center of the chest and continues on down to the abdominal area. The aorta is the main blood supply of the body or the main artery located within the body.

What are the main causes of an aortic aneurysm?

The aorta’s wall is usually very flexible, like elastic. It is made to stretch and shrink as needed to adapt to the flow of blood. There are certain medical conditions that actually cause weakness to occur in the aorta’s walls. A few of these medical conditions are hardening of the arteries, also known as, atherosclerosis and high blood pressure. Aging also causes issues with the aorta’s walls. Just like with a car, normal wear and tear can occur. If it is serious enough, an aorta begins to bulge in an outward fashion.

What are some common symptoms associated with an aortic aneurysm?

Believe it or not, but most cases of aortic aneurysms show no symptoms what-so-ever. On occasion, a physician might find certain symptoms during tests or examinations performed for other medical conditions. Many individuals who have symptoms that something is not right will complain of chest, stomach, or pain and discomfort of the back. The symptoms are not a constant. They can show up and leave just as quickly. It never seems to be an ongoing problem where it would normally scream aortic aneurysm. In some cases, however, constant discomfort has been found in patients. This could be one of the worst scenarios. If the worst happens, it could cause a rupture or burst of the aneurysm. In these cases, bleeding and constant severe pain are associated with it. If it is at this level, the aortic aneurysm could result in death in hours or even minutes.

An aortic aneurysm can lead to other health problems

Due to the unhealthy state of your system when you have an aortic aneurysm, other health problems could occur. There can be a reduction in the flow of blood within the area that is bulged. This can lead to blood clots forming. In the circumstance of a blood cut breaks loose from an bulge in the chest, it could lead directly to the brain and result in a stroke. If the blood clot breaks loose from an aortic aneurysm within the stomach, it can cause blood flow problems to the legs and stomach.

How can you have an aortic aneurysm diagnosed?

Usually the diagnosis of an aortic aneurysm is found by chance. It is usually found during the running of tests for other medical issues. If the physician has reason to believe this could be your problem, there is a test that can be performed to check for aneurysms. Having your physician do screening tests early on can assist in finding a problem early on prior to any symptoms showing up.

Who should be tested for aortic abdominal aneurysms?

In most cases, men should be tested for this more often than women. If you are male and answer yes to any of the following questions, you should speak to your physician.

  1. If you are between the ages of 65 to 70 and have ever smoked cigarettes.
  2. If you are a least 60 years of age and have a close relative, such as a father or brother, who has suffered from an aneurysm.

Medical research has shown that men are more prone to having an aneurysm with the above statistics than men who have never smoked or women.

**Keep in mind that physicians recommend that tests for screening should be performed on anyone, male or female, for a thoracic aneurysm if any close family member has suffered from one.**

What tests will my physician perform if I am suspected of an aortic aneurysm?

Different tests can be performed for an aortic aneurysm; however the most common tests that a physician will perform first will be a CT scan, an MRI, and an Ultrasound. These tests allow the physician to locate where it might be and the size of it.

How is an aortic aneurysm treated?

Treatments for an aortic aneurysm can vary. It will depend on a number of things.

  1. A rapidly growing aneurysm or a large aneurysm will almost always result in surgery. A surgeon will attempt to repair the blood vessel damage with a graft or a stent during the operation.
  2. A smaller aneurysm is less likely to cause bulging. A physician will try to repair it by putting you on a high blood pressure prescription. A high blood pressure medicine is also known as a beta-blocker. The prescription will assist in reducing your blood pressure and aortic wall stress. If you do not require surgery, you will still be required to undergo ultrasound testing routinely to make sure that the medicine is working right and the aneurysm is not increasing in size.
  3. In the instance that your aneurysm stays the same size and does not rupture, you could still face heart problems down the line. Your physician will most likely place you on an exercise regimen; require you to eat healthier, and not to smoke. In some situations, your physician might have you begin taking a prescription to reduce your cholesterol.

What causes abdominal and thoracic camera aortic aneurysms?

There are a number of things that can be the cause of abdominal and thoracic camera aortic aneurysms.

  1. Artery Hardening: Artery hardening is also known as atherosclerosis. Research is still not sure how artery hardening contributes to abdominal aortic aneurysms. They believe that artery hardening camera can result in artery wall changes. The artery wall changes can have an effect on the flow of nutrients and oxygen to the aortic tissues of the wall. The damage to the tissues could possibly result in an aneurysm developing.
  2. Genetics: Certain medical conditions are passed down through families. This includes family members that have had Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, Marfan’s syndrome, as well as other issues that can be inherited. Aortic aneurysms can be hereditary.
  3. Age: As you get older, your increase in getting an abdominal aortic aneurysm is higher due to your aorta becoming stiffer and less elastic.
  4. Infections: Getting an infection can increase your chances greatly of getting an aneurysm. Some infections that can cause this are endocarditis and syphilis. Endocarditis is an infection of the heart lining.
  5. Injuries: Certain intense injuries can lead to an aneurysm as well. Such as, an intense hit to the stomach or chest. For example, an airbag going off directly on this area.
  6. Inflammation: Researchers are still not sure why inflammation can have such a dramatic effect in the aorta; however, it has been known that an inflammation can resort in a weakening of the wall of the aorta.

**Thoracic aortic aneurysms are less likely to occur than that of abdominal aortic aneurysms. A thoracic aortic aneurysm is usually related to the breakdown or reduction in the elastic of the walls of the aorta. Another reason a thoracic aortic aneurysm can happy is from an aortic coartctation. And aortic coarctation is defined as a genetic problem in the same element as that of Turner’s syndrome.

What are the common symptoms of an abdominal aortic aneurysm?

The most complained about symptoms associated with abdominal aortic aneurysms can include stomach pain or an uncomfortable feeling within the stomach. These symptoms can be temporary or prolonged.

Other symptoms that may appear include:

  1.  Chest, lower back, stomach, or kidney pain. This pain can sometimes move onto the groin area, buttocks, or even the legs. The pains associated with it are not just one kind of pain. It can include a throbbing, gnawing, or a deep aching pain. These could last for days or possibly just a few hours. Movement doesn’t seem to enhance the pain, however, certain positions could alleviate a bit of the discomfort.
  2. A feeling that your stomach is pulsating.
  3. In some instances, a feeling of cold feet or a blue or black toe can occur. This is a sign that the abdominal aortic aneurysm has produced a broken blood lot that is blocking the flow of the blood to the feet and legs.
  4. If it is associated with an inflammatory aortic aneurysm, weight loss or fever could be a symptom.

What are the common symptoms of a thoracic aortic aneurysm?

Common symptoms associated with a thoracic aortic aneurysm usually show up most clearly when the aorta does a downward curve, or an aortic arch camera. These symptoms include:

  1. A throbbing, deep, ache in the chest. (This is the most popularly known symptom)
  2. Pain in the back,
  3. Shortness in breathing or cough. (usually if the aneurysm is located in the lung area)
  4. Hard to speak, such as hoarseness.
  5. Pain or difficulty when trying to swallow.

**In the chance that an aortic aneurysm bursts, sudden acute pain and a severe reduction in blood pressure, along with shock can occur. If medical treating is not seeked out immediately, the result will be death.**

A lot of deaths occur due to the symptoms of an aortic aneurysm are so close to that of other medical issues of the chest or belly, such as, peptic ulcer disease and coronary artery disease.

What increases your level of risk for an aortic aneurysm?

  1. The aging process.
  2. The risk is ultimately higher in males.
  3. A problem with suffering from high blood pressure.
  4. Cigarette smoking.
  5. Genetic history from primary relatives, such as, parents, sisters, or brothers.
  6. Consuming more than two alcoholic drinks daily.

What can I expect from my physician if I am diagnosed?

If you have currently been diagnosed with an aortic aneurysm, evaluations by your physician will happen. He will go through many evaluations to determine what course of treatment is best for your particular case.

  1. Your physician will evaluate to see if surgery is necessary.
  2. Your physician will evaluate to see if you are healthy enough to go through a surgery.
  3. Your physician will evaluate if you are able to hold off on having a surgery, at least for the time being.
  4. Your physician will also have to take into consideration the flexibility and shape of the heart valves and aorta when deciding how to treat your aortic aneurysm.

What if my physician says I need to have surgery?

Surgery is only recommended when it has to be. If your aortic aneurysm is growing fast or you have a high risk factor of it bursting, your physician will recommend you have surgery. If you are a male, surgery could be recommended if you have an abdominal aortic aneurysm that is at least 5.5cm or bigger in diameter. If you are a woman, surgery could be recommended if it is smaller than this.

Surgery can also be recommended if a little aortic aneurysm grows at a pace faster than 0.5cm in a 6 month period.  Repair surgically of the thoracic aortic aneurysm camera is quite often the recommended outcome once the size reaches 5.5 to 6.0cm in diameter.

Of course, there are always other factors that are taken into account when deciding to attempt surgery, waylay surgery, or not do a surgery at all. Some of these factors are:

  1. Patients of an older age.
  2. Ongoing medical issues that could make the chances of the surgery a success decline.

What type of medical treatment is available for an aortic aneurysm?

An aneurysm that is smaller than 5.5cm in diameter and are not at a high risk factor for bursting are mainly treated with beta-blockers, such as blood pressure medication. Beta-blockers have been shown to reduce the growth of the aneurysm. Trying to perform a surgery on a smaller aneurysm is not the best treatment if medicine can take care of it. If your physician decides surgery is not the right avenue for you, medical testing will have to be done on a frequent basis to make sure your aneurysm has not increased in size.

Your physician might also wish to have you take a prescription to lower cholesterol. Research has not shown that this will reduce the growth of the aneurysm but they help to improve your overall lifestyle. Taking this prescription can greatly lower your chances of succumbing to a heart attack or a stroke.

Is there anything I can take holistically to help my aneurysm?

Research has been studying claims that show that taking a vitamin filled with antioxidants can reduce your chances of an aneurysm bursting; however, no claims have been validated at this point one way or the other.

What lifestyle changes should I try to make to help my aortic aneurysm?

Lifestyle changes can dramatically improve your overall health. Your physician will probably give you a list of things to try to chance to improve your health and assist the aneurysm from growing.

  1. Cigarette smoking – quitting is most beneficial to your overall health. Your physician can assist you with prescriptions to help you as well as counseling that can make you stop for good.
  2. Your physician will most likely place you on a heart healthy diet
  3. Your physician will talk to you about cutting back on alcoholic beverages.
  4. Your physician will most likely wish you to try to exercise much more than you do. He will request a exercise regimen that will increase your heart rate. For this to happen and be beneficial, he will recommend at least 30 minutes of exercise daily.

Learning to live with an aortic aneurysm

If you have been diagnosed with an aortic aneurysm, you will require treatment and regular physician’s visits. Make sure you and your physician talk about how often medical testing should occur so as not to have any miscommunications.

If your physician recommends abdominal aortic aneurysm surgery

If your physician has recommended that surgery is required to repair the aortic aneurysm, you will surely be unsure as to what to expect. Tell your physician of your fears and concerns and most physicians will do a run down with you of what you can expect from the surgery.

There are basically two types of surgeries that your physician will choose from. There is the traditional open surgery and the endovascular aortic repair surgery. Both work to take care of the abdominal aortic aneurysms.

  1. Traditional Surgery: During the tradition surgery, your physician will make a large incision in either your chest or your stomach. Your aneurysm will then be removed. The next step will be the physician removing the part of the blood vessel that was damaged. The damaged blood vessel will be replaced with a graft.
  2. Endovascular Repair Surgery: During an endovascular repair surgery, your physician will insert a stent through your artery from the groin region. The stent graft builds a bridge between the unhurt portion of your aorta, which is located on top and below the aneurysm. This procedure seems to work quite well, however, the long term effects of it are yet to be researched thoroughly. Due to this fact, you will be required to get x-rays and CT scans for the whole time you have the graft.

If your physician recommends thoracic aortic aneurysm surgery

Your physician may recommend that you undergo surgery for a thoracic aortic aneurysm camera based on a number of factors.

  1. Where the aneurysm is located.
  2. How big the aneurysm is.
  3. If the aneurysm is related to a genetic problem like Marfan’s syndrome.
  4. If you are in need of a heart valve replacement after a heart surgery has already been done.

It is very important to remember that each case or aortic aneurysm is different. This is also the case with the surgeons. One surgeon may have a different way of dealing with it compared to another. It is of the utmost importance to speak to your physician and understand what is being told to you.

If your physician tells you that surgery is what must be done. He will first perform evaluations on your overall health. This will include your lungs, heart, circulatory system, gastrointestinal system, and kidneys. The factors of having complications within the surgery rise when other medical problems exist that the surgeon was not aware of.

High blood pressure and cigarette smoking add risk to surgery complications. They also increase your chances of your aneurysm bursting. It would be important for your surgeon to know about these prior to surgery.

If your physician finds signs of heart disease, you will most likely have to undergo a coronary bypass surgery or coronary angioplasty before being allowed to go ahead with the surgery for the aneurysm. Heart disease can bring many problems to the operating table and can raise the occurrence of heart attacks. Other problems that can arise would be graft infection or stroke.

Cirrhosis of the liver, chronic lung disease and kidney disease may also have a dramatic effect on the performance of the surgery. It highly reduces the chance of complications or death during the operation.

It is important to note that it is NOT okay to hold off on having the aortic aneurysm surgery until it bursts. In most cases, patients whose aortic aneurysm has burst have also died. There is also an extreme amount of blood loss in trying to operate after the aneurysm has burst.

When should I call a doctor about an aortic aneurysm?

There are many symptoms to look for that could be the difference between life and death. If you have a sudden case of highly severe pain, signs of shock or an extreme reduction in your blood pressure, you should dial 911 immediately.

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