Abdominal Aortic Aneurysms: Silent Killers

aaaneurism outreachAbdominal Aortic Aneurysms or AAA, (pronounced “triple A”), are a silent killer. They evolve slowly over many years, offering no symptoms and no pain. They begins as a small dilation in the lower portion of the aorta, the body’s largest blood vessel, usually in the area just below the kidneys. Over years, they will continue to grow slowly and silently. Those affected will not know its there. They will continue to live their lives as normal until the time that the dilation has grown into a balloon like condition where it could burst, causing massive internal bleeding and probable death. This is an extremely critical situation and very scary scenario that is more common than a lot of us think. Immediate medical help is vital for survival.
AAA is the third leading cause of sudden death in men over 60. While women are affected by this as well, men are 4-7 more times likely than women to suffer from this diagnosis. There are over a million people currently living with a AAA that don’t know it. And most AAAs are found incidentally while the patient is being treated for something else. However, with early detection, approximately 95% of diagnosed AAAs can be successfully repaired. Early detection can be done using a very simple, non-invasive abdominal ultrasound exam, (similar to a pregnancy ultrasound), as well as CT and MRI scans.

If a diagnosis is made, it will be watched and evaluated to establish growth rate and size. When the best time for surgical intervention arrives, depending on individual patients and their personal situation, there are two primary methods of repair–a traditional open repair, which is an open/invasive procedure that includes an extended hospital stay and longer recovery time, and an endovascular repair procedure, which is much less invasive and involves a much shorter hospital experience and faster recovery period. A doctor will decide which one is the best option for each individual patient.

  • The risk factors for AAA are:
  • blood pressure
  • high cholesterol
  • smoking (even 100 cigarettes in a lifetime)
  • family history
  • age (men 60+ and men & women both 55+ w/2 or more risk factors)
  • gender (typically, men are 4-7 more likely than women)
  • obesity

At AAAneurysm Outreach, the goal is to educate. AAAOutreach is a national 501c3 non-profit headquartered in New Orleans, Louisiana dedicated to raising awareness of AAA and driving at-risk individuals to get screened. AAAOutreach provides outreach education to communities, patients, and their families and travel the country working with universities and top vascular physicians to provide no cost screenings for those most at risk. AAAOutreach strongly urges every person to know their family history, to know their own health history in more detail and to be an advocate for their own health situation. AAAOutreach strongly encourages conversations with physicians at those yearly check ups, asking questions and seeking answers. AAA does not discriminate. It can affect anyone at any time. Some people who have no evident risk factors still fall victim. Some who are younger than the aforementioned age fall victim as well.

We do not have all of the answers. We are sharing what we know and learning from each screening and diagnosis that is made. Our efforts are continual as is genetic research. This is why awareness and early detection are absolute key. For additional information, please visit our website at www.aoutreach.org. We are also on Facebook and Twitter at AAAneurysm Outreach.

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