Being diagnosed with an aortic aneurysm can be scary, but we want you to know that there are treatment options. In fact, 200,000 people in the United States are diagnosed with an aortic aneurysm each year, yet deaths because of an aortic aneurysm are relatively low — slightly more than 9,900 in 2019.
One of the reasons behind the low death rate is the availability of effective treatment options that we offer here at Advanced Cardiovascular Specialists. Our team of cardiology experts has considerable experience helping patients find the best treatment option for aortic aneurysms, which includes aortic repair.
Here’s a look at when you might benefit from aortic repair or whether medications and close monitoring might be effective. Before we begin, however, we want to point out that what we’re presenting here are general rules of thumb only. Finding the best treatment plan for your aortic aneurysm is best done after an extensive evaluation of the problem at our office.
Discovering an aortic aneurysm is difficult
One of the primary issues with an aortic aneurysm is that many people have small aortic aneurysms, and they’re unaware of the problem since there are no symptoms.
Unfortunately, more often than not, an aortic aneurysm is only discovered after it’s burst or dissected, which, according to the American Heart Association, can lead to:
- Pain in abdomen or back
- Pulsating abdominal mass
- Blue coloration (cyanosis) of lower extremities
- Vision changes
- Difficulty swallowing
- High-pitched breathing sound
- Swelling in the neck
- Chest or upper back pain
- Nausea and vomiting
- Sense of impending doom
- Shock (can include low blood pressure, rapid heart rate, clammy skin, decreased awareness)
These symptoms represent a medical emergency as you can lose a considerable amount of blood in very little time since your aorta is the primary blood vessel that delivers blood from your heart.
If, however, we’re fortunate enough to discover your aortic aneurysm before any complications develop, we can take steps to offset a rupture.
Preventive measures for an aortic aneurysm
Through advanced imaging, such as a CT scan, angiogram, or ultrasound test, our first goal is to determine the size and location of your aneurysm, which will dictate your treatment to a large extent.
If we find that it’s small (less than five centimeters), we may try to treat the problem through medications first. These medications will lower your blood pressure and relax your blood vessels. (We also advise lifestyle changes, such as losing weight, quitting smoking, and exercising more.)
If your aneurysm is large or you carry certain risk factors, we may recommend a surgical solution to repair the aneurysm. There are two different surgical approaches and deciding which one will work best depends upon the location and size of the aneurysm. The two surgeries include:
Endovascular aneurysm repair
Using a catheter, we go in through the artery located at the top of your thigh and thread the thin tube to the location of your aneurysm. Once in position, we release an expandable graft to reinforce the blood vessel. Called a stent graft, this device seals itself into place after it expands, thus preventing your weakened artery from bursting.
If we feel that endovascular repair won’t work in your case, we opt for open surgery, during which we make a large incision to gain access to your aneurysm and place a graft on the blood vessel.
Again, the only way to determine whether you need surgical repair is to come see us for an extensive evaluation. To get started, contact our Mountain View, California, to set up an appointment.