Abdominal Aortic Aneurysms

What is it?

Most aneurysms — abnormal bulges or “ballooning” in the wall of an artery — occur in the aorta. The aorta is the main artery that carries blood from the heart to the rest of the body.

There are two types of aortic aneurysm:

  • Thoracic aortic aneurysms occur in the part of the aorta running through the chest.
  • Abdominal aortic aneurysms (AAA) occur in the part of the aorta running through the abdomen.

Aneurysms appear when the lining of the aorta becomes damaged or weakened. The weakened area stretches and expands. Like a balloon, the further it expands the more pressure on the walls of the aorta. Eventually, it can put so much strain on the artery wall that it finally ruptures.


Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm (AAA) is known as a “silent” problem, because often there are no symptoms. It’s often found during other routine exams or tests.

It’s best to know your risk factors and make your physician aware if:

  • You are over the age of 60
  • Have pain or other symptoms when you walk or exercise that go away when you stop
  • You smoke or have ever smoked
  • Anyone if your family has been diagnosed with AAA
  • You are currently under the care of a physician who is treating you for vascular disease in your legs or for AAA
  • Have high blood pressure


Once an AAA is found, further testing helps to measure size and how fast it is growing.

  • Ultrasound
  • CT
  • MRI
  • Arteriography


Treatments for AAA may depend on many different factors:

  • How large is it?
  • Is it growing?
  • What is your overall health?

If the aneurysm is small, your cardiologist may recommend simply careful monitoring along with reducing your rupture risk such as:

  • Keeping blood pressure low
  • Healthy diet
  • Smoking cessation

However, be alert for symptoms such as:

  • Severe back pain
  • Tenderness in your stomach area
  • Lightheaded or dizziness

Call 911 immediately!

Surgery or Procedures

  • Endovascular Repair
    Endovascular grafting repairs the AAA by inserting a graft through a small incision in the groin. The endovascular method allows the graft to be delivered through a catheter or tube inserted in a groin artery. X-ray guidance is then used to accurately position the graft in the AAA.
  • Open Surgery
    During the surgery, the surgeon makes an abdominal incision, then replaces the diseased part of the aorta with a graft that is carefully matched to the normal aorta. This graft is sewn in place by the surgeon.

Ask your primary care physician about a referral to Prairie Vascular Services.

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