Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm

  • Medical Author:
    Benjamin Wedro, MD, FACEP, FAAEM

    Dr. Ben Wedro practices emergency medicine at Gundersen Clinic, a regional trauma center in La Crosse, Wisconsin. His background includes undergraduate and medical studies at the University of Alberta, a Family Practice internship at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario and residency training in Emergency Medicine at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

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What are the complications with an abdominal aortic aneurysm?

An aortic aneurysm can leak causing an increase in the patient's abdominal pain. When pain is felt in the back or flank, the symptoms can be misdiagnosed as a kidney stone. If the diagnosis is missed or if the patient does not present for care, the aneurysm can burst or rupture causing potential catastrophe and death.

Since aneurysms are associated with atherosclerosis and plaque along the aortic wall and since aneurysms often contain a clot, debris can travel, or embolize, into smaller blood vessels and cause symptoms due to decreased blood flow.

Aneurysms can rarely become infected.

How are abdominal aortic aneurysms repaired?

Each patient is different and the decision to repair an abdominal aortic aneurysm depends upon the size of the aneurysm, the age of the patient, underlying medical conditions, and life expectancy.

There are two approaches for repair:

The first is the traditional surgical approach. A large incision is made in the abdomen, the aortic aneurysm is identified and cut out or resected. The missing piece of aorta is replaced with a synthetic graft.

The second approach is placing an endovascular graft. A catheter or tube is threaded into the femoral artery in the groin and the graft is positioned so that it spans and sits inside the aneurysm and protects it from expanding (endovascular: endo = inside + vascular = blood vessel).

The approach to treatment needs to be tailored to the individual patient and very much depends upon the location, size, and shape of the aneurysm.

Picture of grafted stent to repair an abdominal aortic aneurysm.
Picture of grafted stent to repair an abdominal aortic aneurysm.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 10/30/2015
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