Aortic Aneurysm Can Continue To Expand And If Left Untreated, Can Eventually Burst, Causing Sudden Death
Aortic Aneurysm causes the death of approximately 11,000 people every year in the United States. Aortic aneurysm is called “The Silent Killer” because it can take people’s lives without any warning signs.
Detecting an aortic aneurysm before it expands and ruptures is the only way to avoid losing your life to this fatal disease. That is why our Tampa vascular surgeons recommend that all men over the age of 40 get an annual aortic aneurysm screening.
What are aortic aneurysms?
The aorta is the largest artery in the human body. It carries blood away from the heart to all the other areas of the body. The aorta is made up of the thoracic aorta which runs through the chest and the abdominal aorta which runs through the abdominal area.
An aneurysm is an abnormal ballooning or bulging of a section of an artery due to weakness in the artery wall.
An abdominal aortic aneurysm refers to a bulge in the abdominal aorta. A thoracic aortic aneurysm refers to a bulge in the thoracic aorta.
75% of aortic aneurysms are abdominal aortic aneurysms (formed in the abdominal section of the aorta), while only 25% of aortic aneurysms are thoracic aortic aneurysms (formed in the chest/thoracic section of the aorta).
The reason why aortic aneurysms are very serious and are considered fatal, is because they can continue to expand and eventually burst. This would cause severe internal bleeding that can lead to sudden death.
Sadly, only about 20% – 30% of people who arrive at the emergency room with a ruptured aortic aneurysm survive.
What is the cause of an aortic aneurysm?
The exact causes of aortic aneurysms are not known, but having a family history of the disease as well as age are the most significant factors. If either of your parents, grandparents, aunts or uncles have suffered from an aortic aneurysm, there is a higher likelihood that you may develop one as well and that is why you should consider getting a vascular screening every year.
In addition to having a family history, smoking and high blood pressure are also risk factors because they cause degeneration of the connective tissue and muscular layer of the aorta. Aortic aneurysms that form in this way are called degenerative aneurysms and they are the most common type of aneurysm.
Another type of aneurysm is known as a dissecting aneurysm and they occur when the pressure of the blood flow forces the layers of the wall of the aorta apart, which weakens the aorta. This is known as an aortic dissection, and it can extend from the thoracic aorta through the entire aorta and block arteries to the legs, arms, kidneys, brain, spinal cord, and other areas. Over time, the pressure of blood flow can cause the weakened area of the aorta to bulge like a balloon. Much like an over-inflated balloon, an aneurysm can stretch the aorta beyond its safety limits where it can eventually rupture.
Diseases such as Marfan’s Syndrome (a connective tissue disorder), Syphilis, and Tuberculosis can weaken the layers of the aortic wall, and therefore can put you at a higher risk for developing aortic aneurysms.
In rare cases, trauma, such as a car accident or a fall, may cause an aortic aneurysm as well.
It is also important to note that aortic aneurysms are more common in men than they are in women.
Aortic Aneurysm Symptoms
Aortic aneurysms have often been nicknamed “The Silent Killer” because they usually happen without any warning signs. Unfortunately, only about half of patients with an aortic aneurysm notice any symptoms at all.
This is very scary because if the aorta ruptures it can lead to internal organ damage and sudden death.
If symptoms are present, possible Abdominal Aneurysm Symptoms include:
- Pain in your legs
- Pain in your groin area or buttocks
- Throbbing or deep pain in your back or side
Some Thoracic Aneurysm Symptoms include:
- Chest or back pain
- Pain in the jaw, neck, and upper back
- Hoarseness, coughing, or difficulty breathing
If you are already experiencing any of these symptoms, do not ignore the warning signs. A vascular ultrasound is the only sure way to detect the presence of this silent killing disease before it’s too late.
Aortic Aneurysm Diagnosis & Treatment
The presence of an aortic aneurysm can be determined through an X-Ray, Ultrasound, CT (Computed Tomography) Scan, MRA (Magnetic Resonance Angiogram), Echocardiogram, or Angiogram.
The Board Certified Vascular Surgeons at The Vein & Vascular Institute of Tampa Bay can quickly and easily determine if you have started to develop an aortic aneurysm through a simple vascular ultrasound.
We will be able to identify its exact location, its size, whether or not it is growing, how fast it is growing and we will also determine if there are any aortic dissections or blood clots associated with the aneurysm.
Depending on many factors regarding the aneurysm, including its size, rate of growth as well as the medical history and age of the patient, the most appropriate treatment will be determined.
Most often, our vascular specialists are able to use minimally invasive techniques to treat the aneurysm in our Nationally Accredited Vascular Laboratory at our Tampa vascular clinic.
Our vascular surgeons have staff privileges at major Tampa hospitals, such as St. Joseph’s Hospital, and are able to perform aortic aneurysm repair within the hospital setting, if necessary.
To schedule a vascular consultation with one of the Board Certified Vascular Surgeons at The Vein and Vascular Institute of Tampa Bay, give us a call at (813) 377-2773 because if left untreated, aneurysms can rupture and take your life.