Abdominal aortic aneurysms (AAA) occur when there is a weakening in the descending portion of the aorta after it reached the abdomen. Most AAAs are identified accidentally when doing imaging tests for another condition. Once the problem is found, there are different strategies used to treat the condition, depending on the severity of the aneurysm.
A small AAA typically does not cause symptoms and when it is found, monitoring may be the only necessary treatment. Your doctor will order imaging tests periodically to determine whether the aneurysm is increasing in size and how fast this is occurring. During the monitoring phase, it is important to make lifestyle changes to improve vascular health and control any chronic diseases. Hypertension is common in people who develop AAA, and keeping your blood pressure under control may delay any increase in size of the aneurysm. Eating a heart-healthy diet and engaging in regular exercise has many vascular benefits and may reduce chronic diseases that exacerbate the condition.
When surgery becomes necessary because the aneurysm is large and in danger of rupturing or is already causing symptoms, the least invasive approach is an endovascular repair. The procedure is done without a large abdominal incision and the surgeon is able to implant a device in the aorta by guiding it through the blood vessel. Once the device is threaded to the site of the aneurysm, it is enlarged and reinforces the wall of the aorta. This provides additional support to the vessel and prevents rupture since the blood no longer presses against the weakened area. Since the procedure is minimally-invasive, the recovery is faster and you may only need to spend a few days in the hospital.
Not all AAAs can be fixed with an endovascular approach, especially if the aneurysm has already burst, the repair might be emergency surgery. A traditional graft requires an incision in the abdomen to access the aorta. The blood vessel is clamped above and below the aneurysm to stop blood flow. A surgeon will remove the aneurysm and use a grafting material to replace that section of the aorta. Once the graft is sutured in place, the clamps can be removed to restore blood flow and check for any leaks. Due to the abdominal incision, healing can take a while, and you may spend a week or more in the hospital.
When AAA is found in the early stages, routine monitoring is the only necessary treatment. Once the aneurysm become life or limb-threatening, repairing the aorta is the only option to prevent a catastrophic rupture. For more information, contact a company like The Surgical Clinic today.