Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm (AAA)
The Aorta is the largest artery in the body and carries the blood away from the heart to the organs and limbs. The aorta runs from the heart down to the abdomen where it becomes the abdominal aorta. The abdominal aorta then divides into two to become the iliac arteries. These then feed the blood to each leg.
In some patients, the wall of their abdominal aorta becomes weak and can bulge or expand. This then increases the risk of the aorta rupturing (bursting). If an abdominal aorta ruptures, it can lead to sudden and severe internal bleeding, and in some cases death. There is also a risk of clots developing which can break off and cause a blockage another vessel (embolisation).
If you have an AAA, you may not suffer from any symptoms. They are most commonly found when you are having a CT scan or ultrasound for another condition. If you do suffer from symptoms, you may suffer from a severe pulsing feeling in your abdomen or a severe sudden pain in your abdomen or lower back. In some cases, if the artery does burst, you will feel severe weakness, dizziness and you may fall unconscious.
If an AAA is identified, your Doctor will sometimes ‘watch and wait’ which means monitoring to see if the aneurysm changes in size which can be assessed every 6-12 months. This is normally with aneurysms smaller than about 5cm in diameter. If the artery becomes large enough (typically more than 5.5cm) the surgeon may decides to operate, and there are 2 main ways of treating an AAA:
Endovascular Aneurysm Repair (EVAR)
This will treat the aneurysm by treating the artery from the inside by using a endovascular stent graft. This is a metal and fabric tube that will be placed inside the artery to help strengthen the area where the aneurysm is. Endovascular means that the procedure is performed inside the artery, using thin tubes (catheters) and wires to guide through your vessels to the artery. The procedure is less invasive, which means that only small incisions are made in the groin so there is a reduced stay in hospital and a shorter recovery time.
EVAR (EndoVascular Aneurysm Repair)
Open Surgical Aneurysm Repair
If the aneurysm is not suitable for endovascular repair, your surgeon may have to perform an open repair. This involves making an incision in your abdomen and using an aortic graft to replace the weakened part of your aorta. The aortic graft is normally made of material such as Dacron, which is a plastic material that is strong and durable. After the surgery, you may have to stay in hospital for up to 7 days with a longer time to have a complete recovery.
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