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Aortic Aneurysm (cont.)

Can an aortic aneurysm be prevented?

No medicine can prevent an aortic aneurysm. However, measures can be taken that will help keep blood vessels healthy and strong.

  • Eat a low-fat, low-cholesterol diet.
  • Get active: Take part every day in some activity that increases heart rate to the rate recommended for the patient's age and overall condition. At least 30 minutes a day is ideal.
  • Don't smoke.
  • Control blood pressure; the above methods can help and if necessary, the doctor may prescribe medication.

If a person is found to have an aortic aneurysm less than 5 cm in size, it should be watched carefully by their primary care doctor. Regular ultrasound examinations will detect any growth or other changes in the aneurysm.

Some experts recommend screening for all individuals older than 55 years.

  • Screening would detect many aortic aneurysms that otherwise go unrecognized because they cause no symptoms.
  • Ultrasound examination of the abdomen is more than 80% accurate in screening for the existence of abdominal aortic aneurysm. Physical exam may not detect an aneurysm.

What is the outlook for a person that has an aortic aneurysm?

With prompt diagnosis and proper surgical treatment, most people recover fully.

Treatment usually requires minimal alteration of lifestyle, although recommendations to avoid dietary fat and smoking and to control blood pressure may allow patients to prevent further damage to their blood vessels.

Because these conditions most often occur in elderly people with other medical conditions, recovery can be prolonged and difficult.

Complications of untreated aortic aneurysm include the following:

  • Blood clot: Where the aorta widens into a bulge, blood clots (thrombi) are more likely to form. If a piece of a blood clot breaks off (embolizes), it travels through the circulatory system until it lodges somewhere. The clot can cut off blood flow to any area of the body. Symptoms depend on which part of the body is deprived of blood.
  • Internal bleeding: In ruptured aneurysm or dissection, internal bleeding will occur. If individuals have symptoms associated with internal bleeding, they are in danger and must seek emergency medical care right away.
  • Circulatory shock: If anyone bleeds enough, their blood pressure will drop dangerously low. Organs will not receive enough blood to function normally. This is called circulatory collapse or often just "shock." It is a life-threatening condition.

Medically reviewed by Robert J. Bryg, MD; Board Certified Internal Medicine with subspecialty in Cardiovascular Disease

REFERENCES:

American Heart Association. "Guidelines for the Diagnosis and Management of Patients with Thoracic Aortic Disease. American Heart Association.
<https://my.americanheart.org/idc/groups/ahaecc-internal/@wcm/@sop/documents/downloadable/ucm_423806.pdf>

"Aortic Aneurysm Fact Sheet." Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Updated: June 16, 2016.
<http://www.cdc.gov/dhdsp/data_statistics/fact_sheets/fs_aortic_aneurysm.htm>

Rahimi, S. A., MD. "Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm Treatment & Management." Medscape. Updated: Sep 28, 2015.
<http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/1979501-overview>

Tseng, E., MD. "Thoracic Aortic Aneurysm." Medscape. Updated: Jul 20, 2016.
<http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/424904-overview>


Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 7/21/2016
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