Symptoms of aortic aneurysms
Aortic aneurysms often don’t produce any symptoms. If you do feel something, it may be:
- A pulsing feeling in your abdomen similar to a heartbeat
- An ache in your lower back or abdomen
- Abdominal swelling
- Nausea and vomiting
- Rapid heart rate
- Severe or sudden pain in your lower back or abdomen (which is often just before your aneurysm is about to burst)
- Your feet may develop pain, discolouration or sores
If your aneurysm bursts you may feel dizziness, intense pain, weakness or you may lose consciousness. If this happens you need urgent medical attention – call 000 immediately.
Complications of aortic aneurysms
Aortic aneurysms are dangerous. They can balloon in size over time and can burst or leak causing severe internal bleeding or rapid death.
Causes of aneurysms
Causes of aneurysm can be hard to work out for certain, although the following factors increase your risks:
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Family history of heart or vascular problems
- Atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries)
- Being a male over 60 (men tend to develop aneurysms more than women)
Treatment- Aortic Aneurysm Repairs
Aneurysms don’t go away by themselves. Surgery is the only means of repairing an aneurysm.
If the aneurysm is small (less than 5cm) then a conservative monitoring approach is taken. In this strategy you will have regular check-ups with your doctor (every 6-12 months) to assess how quickly the aneurysm is growing in order to give you more time before you undergo surgery. You may be placed on high blood pressure medication during your observation to help reduce the stress on the aneurysm. You are also advised to address of any lifestyle issues such as smoking and obesity.
If your aneurysm is causing symptoms, or your aneurysm is large then we will generally recommend surgery called an aneurysm repair. This is where the damaged section of your artery, vein etc is removed and replaced with a graft (synthetic tube) which is then fixed into place.
Depending on your symptoms and a range of other factors, you will undergo either:
- Open Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm Repair, or
- Endovascular Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm Repair.
Endovascular is a newer procedure and means that the surgery is performed inside your arteries using long catheters threaded up through your arteries. It is commonly called keyhole surgery as only small incisions are needed.
Not all patients are suitable candidates for endovascular surgery, and Dr Williams will discuss the advantages and disadvantages of your different options with you during your appointment.