An aortic aneurysm is a potentially life-threatening medical condition characterized by a bulge or weakening in the wall of the aorta, which is the largest artery in the body. The aorta carries oxygenated blood from the heart to the rest of the body, and when it weakens and expands, it can become at risk of rupturing. Factors that increase the risk of aortic aneurysms include aging, smoking, high blood pressure, atherosclerosis, a family history of aneurysms, and certain genetic conditions like Marfan syndrome and Ehlers-Danlos syndrome.
Aortic aneurysms are often asymptomatic until they reach a large size or rupture. Symptoms, when present, can include chest or back pain (in the case of thoracic aneurysms), abdominal pain (in the case of abdominal aneurysms), and other signs related to pressure on surrounding structures or organ dysfunction.
Aortic aneurysms are typically discovered through imaging tests such as ultrasound, CT scans, or MRIs. Regular screening is recommended for individuals with risk factors, as early detection can lead to better outcomes.
The primary concern with aortic aneurysms is rupture, which is a medical emergency and can be fatal. When an aneurysm is small and stable, the risk of rupture is low. However, as an aneurysm enlarges the risk of rupture increases significantly.
Treatment options depend on the size, location, and risk of rupture. Small aneurysms may be monitored regularly to check for growth, while larger aneurysms may require surgery or endovascular repair. Surgical repair often involves replacing the weakened portion of the aorta with a synthetic graft. Dr.Nikhil says, “Aortic repair surgeries are some of the most complex heart surgeries ever performed, but over the years have been made safe and reproducible.”
It’s crucial for individuals with risk factors to be aware of the signs and symptoms of aortic aneurysms and to seek medical attention promptly if they experience any concerning symptoms. Regular medical check-ups and discussions with a healthcare provider are essential for monitoring and managing aortic aneurysms effectively.