Sometimes when we experience pain or discomfort

Sometimes when we experience pain or discomfort
H E
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AboutAneurysms
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ometimes when we experience pain or discomfort,
it’s difficult to know if we should contact our
healthcare provider. Most aortic aneurysms do not
show symptoms until they are large and develop a
complication, so they are often referred to as a
“silent” condition. If you are experiencing symptoms
of an aortic aneurysm, you should speak up and contact your healthcare provider immediately, or call 911.
What is an aortic aneurysm?
The aorta is the main artery of the body that supplies
oxygenated blood to your heart, lungs and brain.
This artery runs from the heart through the center of
the chest and abdomen.
An aortic aneurysm is an enlargement of this main artery that occurs in a weakened portion of the artery’s
wall. An aneurysm occurs when a segment of the vessel becomes weakened and expands. The pressure of
the blood flowing through the vessel creates a bulge
at the weak spot, just like an overinflated inner tube
can cause a bulge in a tire. The bulge usually starts
small and grows as the pressure continues.
An aneurysm may occasionally cause pain which is a
sign of impending rupture. When the rupture occurs,
it causes internal bleeding. Because the abdominal
aorta is such a large vessel, a ruptured abdominal
aneurysm is a life-threatening event.
Fortunately, not all aneurysms rupture right away.
Many grow very slowly and cause no symptoms or
problems for many years. When detected in time,
most aneurysms can be electively repaired with an
operation so they do not rupture.
Aneurysms are about two-thirds more common in
men than in women, and most aneurysms occur in
people aged 55 years or older. The number of
aneurysms in the United States is increasing as the
population increases and ages.
■ Chest pain or discomfort
■ Pain in the jaw, back or upper neck
■ Difficulty breathing (this maybe affected
by position)
A R T C A
■ Trouble swallowing
Usually, aortic aneurysms are detected by ultrasound,
MRI or CT scans.
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Signs and symptoms
Most aortic aneurysms do not show symptoms until
they are large and develop a complication. When one
arises, the patient usually experiences severe pain. Do
not remain silent if you experience the following
symptoms. Call your healthcare provider or call 911
one if you experience:
■ Abdominal aortic aneurysms
■ Hoarseness
■ Abnormal changes in heartbeat or murmurs
There are two main types of aortic aneurysms:
■ Thoracic aortic aneurysms
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Abdominal aortic aneurysms occur in the section of
the aorta that passes through the abdomen.
The exact cause of this is
unknown, but tobacco use,
atherosclerosis (hardening of
arteries) and infection can
contribute to abdominal aortic
aneurysms. Tears in the wall
of the aorta are the main
complication of abdominal
aortic aneurysm. This could
lead to internal bleeding.
Thoracic aortic aneurysms
occur in sections of the aorta in
the chest. This is often caused
by atherosclerosis, a hardening
of the arteries that damages the
artery’s walls and causes them
to bulge.
Thoracic aortic aneurysms can
increase health risks for atherosclerotic plaque, a clot forming in the site of the
aneurysm, aortic dissection (tearing of the layers of
the aorta) and aneurysm rupture.
Thoraco-abdominal aortic aneurysms occur in the
lower part of the thoracic aorta and the upper part
of the abdominal aorta. Causes are much like both
thoracic and abdominal aneurysms, including
hardening of the arteries caused by a buildup of
fatty substances, plaque and other elements.
Surgical treatment options
If the thoracic aortic aneurysm is large or symptoms
are overbearing, surgical treatment is necessary. The
section of the vessel can be surgically removed and
replaced with a graft of artificial material. If the
aneurysm is close enough to the aortic valve, valve
replacement may also be recommended.
Aside from open aneurysm repair, there is a newer
procedure called an endovascular aneurysm repair
(EVAR, TEVAR, TA-EVAR). Endovascular surgery is
performed using a catheter through a small incision in
the groin. The catheter then guides the stent-graft
through the blood vessels to the site of the aneurysm.
Nonsurgical treatment options
In cases where the aneurysm is small and asymptomatic, it’s likely that a doctor will recommend monitoring the aneurysm through CT or MRI scans and
medication for blood pressure or high cholesterol.
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