What is an abdominal aortic aneurysm?
An abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) is a dilatation or ballooning of the major artery in the abdomen that takes blood from the heart to the intestines, kidneys, liver and to the legs. Aneurysms, or enlarged arteries, can affect arteries throughout the body, but tend to occur in the lowest part of the aorta, just above the belly button. They occur mainly in elderly males and those with a family history of AAAs.
The normal aorta is about 2cm in diameter. Due to weakness in the artery wall caused by smoking, hypertension or genetic predisposition, the aorta can dilate (get larger) over many years. If it dilates out to about 5cm, then there is a significant risk that the aorta will rupture, causing massive internal bleeding which usually leads to death within minutes to hours. Thus, once the aneurysm reaches a diameter of 5cm, treatment is the preferred option to prevent it from rupturing.
Abdominal aortic aneurysm surgery has been practised for over 60 years. It is a major operation with a high chance of complications and a long recovery period. Open surgery involves a long incision in the abdomen and repairing the AAA by suturing a bypass graft into it. However, although open surgery is occasionally still required to repair an aneurysm, almost 80% of all AAAs are now repaired via minimally invasive stenting procedures.
The stenting of an AAA involves a small incision in each groin (to get access to the femoral arteries) and with the aid of sophisticated X-ray equipment, a stent is placed in the correct position to repair the AAA. It requires only a 1-2 day stay in hospital with a very quick recovery time.
Dr Shakibaie has treated many aneurysms with both minimally invasive methods and surgery when required. During the initial consultation, he will discuss the management of your aneurysm and answer any questions you may have about abdominal aortic aneurysms.