Abdominal aortic aneurysm
Article by: Dr Kyriacos (Kikis) Patatas
MBBS (London) BSc (Hons) FRCR CCST (UK) EBIR | Interventional Radiologist
An abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) is a bulge or swelling in the aorta, the main blood vessel that runs from the heart down through the chest and tummy. It is a very dangerous condition if it isn’t spotted early on as it can get bigger over time and could rupture (burst), causing life-threatening bleeding.
Men aged 65 and over are most at risk of AAA and this is why in the United Kingdom and some other European countries all men over 65 years are now invited for screening to check for an AAA under a national screening programme.
Other people at higher risk of getting an AAA include people who smoke, people with blood pressure and people with family history and they are also advised to consider having a scan. The screening test is a very quick and painless ultrasound scan to see how big the aorta is.
If an aneurysm is present, treatment is recommended when the aneurysm becomes large (> 5.5 cm) and treatment now can be performed with minimally-invasive endovascular surgery with stent grafts which are inserted through very small groin incisions (percutaneous endovascular aneurysm repair, pEVAR technique) and hospital stay is only a couple of days at the most.
Such procedures are sometimes called ‘pinhole surgery’ because unlike keyhole surgery, it requires no major cutting, stitches or general anaesthetic.