M.S. F.R.C.S.
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Abdominal Aortic Aneurysms


An aneurysm is a stretching of a weakened artery, which balloons out. The wall of the artery becomes thinned by loss of its elastic tissue and the artery then inflates making it likely to burst. The most common artery to be affected is the aorta, which is the main artery in the abdomen. In England and Wales, between 6,000 and 10,000 people each year suffer from rupture of an abdominal aortic aneurysm. Most of these patients are men over the age of 60 years.

Smoking and high blood pressure are known to increase the risk of both developing an aneurysm and it's subsequent rupture.

There is no doubt that the results in patients who have an elective (planned) repair are far superior to those in whom the repair is undertaken as an emergency.

Most are discovered as an incidental finding, during the course of another examination.

The diagnosis is then confirmed by an ultrasound examination and or a CT scan. Not all aneurysms need an operation. The risk of rupture and therefore the need for repair, depends on the size of the aneurysm. If the aneurysm is large (more than 5.0cms in diameter), it is probably safer to have an operation to repair it than to leave it alone. This protects the aorta from rupture.

Smaller aneurysms are usually observed by repeat scanning at 6 to 12 monthly intervals, in case they enlarge and become dangerous. Average enlargement is about 0.5cm per year, so surgery may be required at a later stage.