Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm

What is Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm?

An abdominal aortic aneurysm is when the large blood vessel that supplies blood to the abdomen, pelvis, and legs becomes abnormally large or balloons outward.  An abdominal aortic aneurysm may be caused by multiple factors that result in the breaking down of the well-organized structural components (proteins) of the aortic wall that provide support and stabilize the wall. The exact cause is not fully known.

Risk Factors for Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm

  • Age (greater than 60)
  • Male (occurrence in males is four to five times greater than that of females)
  • Family History (first degree relatives such as father or brother)
  • Genetic Factors
  • Hyperlipidemia (elevated fats in the blood)
  • Hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • Smoking
  • Diabetes

Diagnosis of Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm

In addition to a complete medical history and physical examination, diagnostic procedures for an abdominal aortic aneurysm may include any, or a combination, of a CT scan, MRI, ultrasound or arteriogram.

  • Computed tomography scan (Also called a CT or CAT scan.) - a diagnostic imaging procedure that uses a combination of x-rays and computer technology to produce cross-sectional images (often called slices), both horizontally and vertically, of the body. A CT scan shows detailed images of any part of the body, including the bones, muscles, fat, and organs. CT scans are more detailed than general x-rays.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) - a diagnostic procedure that uses a combination of large magnets, radiofrequencies, and a computer to produce detailed images of organs and structures within the body.
  • Ultrasound - uses high-frequency sound waves and a computer to create images of blood vessels, tissues, and organs. Ultrasounds are used to view internal organs as they function, and to assess blood flow through various vessels.
  • Arteriogram (angiogram) - an x-ray image of the blood vessels used to evaluate various conditions, such as aneurysm, stenosis (narrowing of the blood vessel), or blockages. A dye (contrast) will be injected through a thin flexible tube placed in an artery. This dye makes the blood vessels visible on x-ray.

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