It's easy to go to a doctor when you know something's wrong, but what about when there's no symptoms? This is the case of abdominal aortic aneurysm which have no symptoms until it's too late and life-saving emergency surgery is required. But take heart: it's not quite as scary as it sounds, and the expert cardiologists at CardioCare cardiovascular centre in Marbella are here to help you understand what it is and if you should be worried about it when it comes to your heart health.
What is Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm?
An abdominal aortic aneurysm, sometimes called AAA or Triple A, is a swelling of the aorta, a major blood vessel in the heart that runs through the abdomen and into the stomach area of the body. Every person is different, but in general, a healthy abdominal aorta is between 2-3 cm and any larger is considered a health risk, as it could grow large enough to burst, causing life-threatening bleeding in the chest.
Who's at Risk of Developing Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm?
We know that an abdominal aortic aneurysm occurs due to weakened vessel walls in the aorta, causing it to balloon outwards until it grows thin enough to break. What causes this weakening though, is still not completely known, but doctors have identified some common factors that may contribute to it. These include: age (generally over 65 years in men and 70 years in women), high blood pressure or high cholesterol, a history of cardiovascular disease, having chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), smoking and genetics (those with a family history of having AAA).
If any of these risk factors apply to you, it may be a good idea to talk to your doctor about screening for AAA, as until it reaches an extremely advanced stage (i.e. rupture or very near rupture), an abdominal aortic aneurysm completely symptom-free.
What's the Risk of Rupture?
While all abdominal aortic aneurysms should be taken seriously, keep in mind that not all of them are at immediate risk for rupture. Your cardiologist can help you determine your level of risk for rupture based on your specific medical history, the size of your aortic aneurysm and its rate of growth.
What is the Treatment for an Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm?
Watchful waiting is a very valid medical procedure in many cases of AAA until it reaches a dangerous enough stage that it requires medical treatment.
Once intervention is required, there are two options to repair an abdominal aortic aneurysm: 1) Open surgery where a large incision is made in the abdomen to expose the aneurysm and a graft is inserted to reinforce the weakened blood vessel wall so that it doesn't continue to grow until bursting; or 2) minimally-invasive interventional aortic graft insertion which involves threading a small catheter through a tiny insertion in an artery in the groin and threading it through to the abdominal aortic aneurysm where a graft is placed on the weakened wall to reinforce it, keeping it from growing and running the risk of life-threatening rupture. Both options have their risks and their rewards, although generally speaking, minimally-invasive techniques are always preferred where possible as they offer fewer risks, faster recovery times and little to no side effects.
How Can CardioCare Marbella Help?
Healthy eating, daily exercise, minimizing stress, drinking plenty of water, quitting smoking and getting enough sleep are all important parts of taking care of yourself, but some conditions like abdominal aortic aneurysms can develop despite our best efforts or due to conditions beyond our control. That's why if you have any concerns regarding your cardiovascular health or any risk factors for any cardiovascular disease, regular check-ups are an important part of staying healthy by preventing issues before they arise. At CardioCare private heart clinic in Marbella, we offer a range of preventative check-ups for people of all ages and medical backgrounds so you can always feel assured of your heart and cardiovascular health. Our doctors are all internationally-trained experts with decades of experience and we use only state-of-the-art and world-class technology to provide the best diagnostics and most effective treatments. In the case of abdominal aortic aneurysm, this includes abdominal ultrasounds with color-doppler and angio-CT or angio-MRI scans to detect your AAA early on and, if necessary, minimally-invasive interventional aortic graft insertion to treat it.
Request an appointment with our expert cardiologists to discuss your specific heart or cardiovascular concerns or contact us to book a preventative and early-detection check-up that suits your medical history, risk factors and lifestyle so you can rest assured that your heart (and the whole of your cardiovascular system) not only is, but remains in prime health.