Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm – What is an abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA)?
An aneurysm is a blood vessel whose wall has become weak and allows the blood vessel to expand and bulge out. Most aneurysms have no definite cause, although most are associated with atherosclerosis. The most common site is in the abdominal aorta, the large artery that carries blood from the heart through the abdomen to the legs. This is called an abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA). Aneurysms sometimes occur in the branches of the aorta that go to the legs (iliac arteries) and in the legs themselves in the popliteal artery, the main artery that runs behind the knee.
How are AAA diagnosed?
Aneurysms in the abdominal area enlarge slowly over a period of years. In theory, this means they can be discovered before they cause problems. Unfortunately, aneurysms frequently produce no symptoms before they leak or rupture that would prompt a person to seek medical attention. But they can be picked up at a regular physical examination. For example, an abdominal aneurysm often feels like a tender, throbbing lump under the skin and the patient or an examining doctor may discover the pulsating mass. Even if the lump cannot be felt, the doctor can often hear suspicious sounds of turbulent blood flow through a stethoscope on the abdomen.
When an examining doctor discovers signs suspicious of an abdominal aneurysm, an abdominal X-ray or ultrasound examination may reveal its size and location. More advanced tests, like a CT scan and M.R.I., are usually included in the diagnostic workup. Some vascular specialists, ourselves included, recommend that ultrasound, a simple, quick, non-invasive test, be used to screen people at high risk of abdominal aneurysm. Once an aneurysm has been diagnosed an arteriogram (angiogram) may be required to plan treatment.
Our offices are conveniently located in Santa Clarita, Van Nuys, Tarzana, Burbank and soon to be, Antelope Valley. For more information go to www.vvahealth.com or call us at 661-505-7079.
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