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What is Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm?

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. What is an aneurysm?

A. An aneurysm is the enlargement of a blood vessel. Aneurysms pose a major health threat because they can rupture (tear). A ruptured aneurysm in the brain causes a stroke and a ruptured abdominal aortic aneurysm can cause blood loss, shock, and death.

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Q. What causes aneurysms?

A. Several new theories have developed over the last 15 years. It appears that the disease probably has a genetic component, as it tends to run in families. Plaque buildup, smoking, and high blood pressure are also believed to be contributing factors.

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Q. Who is at greatest risk for an aneurysm?

A. Abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) occurs more commonly in men than women and typically appears after the age of 50. Aneurysms are the 10th-leading cause of death in men over the age of 55. Research indicates that women aged 65 and older with cardiovascular disease risk factors, such as high blood pressure and tobacco use, are also at increased risk.

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Q. Why is an AAA so dangerous?

A. An AAA poses a threat because it usually doesn’t show symptoms until a medical emergency occurs.

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Q. How can I find out if I have an AAA?

A. If you are thin and have a moderately large-sized AAA, you or your doctor may be able to feel it below your rib cage. The majority of AAAs are discovered as a result of medical imaging for other conditions. A Life Line Screening AAA ultrasound can easily detect this condition.

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Q. If I have an aneurysm, what is the risk of death from rupture?

A. Once an aneurysm reaches 5 to 6 cm in diameter, the risk of rupture is very high. If rupture occurs, there is approximately an 80 to 95% chance of death. Therefore, the majority of vascular surgeons would agree that a 5 to 6 cm aneurysm should be repaired immediately, unless other medical factors make surgery risky.

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