Aortic Aneurysm Q&A

What is an aortic aneurysm?

An aortic aneurysm is a swelling of the wall of the aorta. The aorta is the main artery of the body that carries oxygenated blood out of and away from the heart. It is thus also the largest artery of the body which divides into smaller vessels that carry blood throughout all the tissues of the body. The aorta extends down through the thorax and into the abdomen, and thus an aneurysm can develop anywhere in these regions. A thoracic aneurysm naturally occurs where the aorta is much closer to the heart, while an abdominal aneurysm is found lower down where the aorta passes through the abdomen.

What are the symptoms of an aortic aneurysm?

A person may have no symptoms at first until the aneurysm is larger. Some symptoms that can

occur then are:

  • Throbbing sensation
  • Pain in the chest, abdomen or belly
  • Pain in the back
  • Shortness of breath
  • Severe tearing pain in the back can signal danger and may indicate that the aorta is
  • dissecting

What is the survival rate of an aortic aneurysm?

The survival rate is much lower if an aortic aneurysm is not treated and if the aorta dissects and ruptures, more than 50% of people usually die from rupture. It is thus a very serious and dangerous condition which should be repaired before it worsens and progresses to an aortic dissection or rupture.

How serious is an aneurysm in your aorta?

An aneurysm in the aorta is very dangerous because it can end up dissecting, which means that the wall of the artery actually tears. This can result in massive blood loss and death, and many people do not survive long enough to get treatment once this happens.

How is aortic aneurysm treated?

The only way to treat an aneurysm is to perform surgery or some type of endovascular intervention done. Aortic repair and stenting are routinely performed by Dr. Ghalili who performs complex aortic repair procedures and stenting. Aortic repair involves either open repair or endovascular repair. Open repair involves opening up the chest or abdomen to access the aneurysm for repair. Endovascular aorta repair is less invasive and involves the doctor using a catheter and using this to insert a stent into the aorta. Which method you need to have done will depend on your particular situation.

How long does it take to recover from aortic aneurysm surgery?

Recovery time for aneurysm surgery depends on if it was an open repair method or less invasive endovascular method. With open repair, the body will take longer to recover because the chest or abdomen has to be cut open. Recovery time may be as long as six weeks depending on surgery method and general health condition of the patient.

What size aortic aneurysm requires surgery?

Usually, any aortic aneurysm that is larger than 5 cm in diameter should be repaired. An aneurysm that has grown to 5.5 cm or more in diameter is at even greater risk of rupture. Other danger signs include severe unrelenting and tearing pain in the back, sides or stomach. These symptoms may indicate that the aneurysm is possibly starting to expand.

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