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What is Aneurysm?

An aneurysm is a ballooned artery, a type of arterial disease. An artery is an elastic blood vessel that transports blood away from the heart. The aorta is the largest artery in the body, running from your heart through the centre of your chest and abdomen, distributing blood to all parts of the body. Aneurysms can occur anywhere along the aorta, but when they develop in the upper part of the aorta, they are called thoracic aortic aneurysms. Rarely, an aneurysm develops in between the upper and lower parts of your aorta called a thoracic abdominal aneurysm. The most common aneurysm occurs at the lower part of the aorta. An abdominal aortic aneurysm is a weakened and protruding found in the lower part of the aorta. As the aorta is the body’s primary provider of blood, an abdominal aortic aneurysm bursting and bleeding can be life threatening.

Most small and slow-growing abdominal aortic aneurysms do not rupture. However large, fast-growing abdominal aortic aneurysms may enlarge to more than 1.5 times of its normal diameter and rupture. Depending on the size and speed at which the aortic aneurysm is growing, medical procedures may differ from careful monitoring to emergency surgical procedure. When an abdominal aortic aneurysm is diagnosed, the doctor will closely examine it so that surgical treatment can be done if it is required.

AneurysmWhat causes Aneurysm?

Patients with a family history, hypertension and high cholesterol and those beyond the age of 65 have a higher risk of developing this condition. Although the exact cause of abdominal aortic aneurysms is unknown, a number of factors may increase your risk, including:

  • Tobacco use. Smoking cigarettes and other tobacco use may increase your risk of aortic aneurysms. In addition to the harmful effects that smoking causes directly to your arteries, smoking contributes to the buildup of fatty plaques in your arteries (atherosclerosis) and high blood pressure.
  • Infection in the aorta (vasculitis). In rare cases, aortic aneurysm may be caused by an infection or inflammation that weakens a section of the aortic wall.

Symptoms of Aneurysm

Aneurysms develop slowly over many years and often have no symptoms. If an aneurysm grows quickly, ruptures, or blood leaks along the wall of the artery (aortic dissection), symptoms may develop suddenly.

The symptoms of rupture include:

  • Severe, sudden, persistent, or constant pain in the abdomen
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea and Vommitting
  • Clammy Skin

Diagnosis of Aneurysm

The doctor will examine your abdomen. The examination also will include an evaluation of pulses in your legs. The doctor may find:

  • A lump (mass) in the abdomen
  • Pulsating sensation in the abdomen
  • Stiff or rigid abdomen

If it is suspected that you have an aortic aneurysm, specialized tests such as Angiogram or Sonography (vascular ultrasound) can confirm it

Should I seek treatment for Aneurysm?

Treatment for aneurysm depends on individual cases.

Small aneurysm of less than 4cm.

  • If you have a small aortic abdominal aneurysm and you have no symptoms, our doctor may suggest a watch-and-wait (observation) approach, instead of surgery as the risks of surgery outweighs that of rupturing.
  • If you choose this approach, our doctor will monitor your aneurysm with regular ultrasounds every six months and encourage you to report immediately if you start having abdominal tenderness or back pain – potential signs of a dissection or rupture.

Medium aneurysm measuring between 4 and 5.5 cm.

  • You’ll need to discuss the benefits and risks of waiting versus surgery and make a decision with our doctor

Aneurysms bigger than 5.5 cm and aneurysms that are growing quickly. The doctor may recommend you to perform surgery before complications or symptoms develop.

There are two approaches to surgery:

  • Traditionally, a large cut is made in your abdomen. This open-abdominal surgery involves removing the damaged section of the aorta and replacing it with a synthetic tube (graft), which is sewn into place, through an open-abdominal approach. With this type of surgery, it will likely take you several months to fully recover.
  • The other approach is using Stenting for Endovascular Aneurysm Repair. EVAR involves small cuts in the patient’s groins and through these cuts the stent device is deployed in the patient’s Aneurysm to seal it off and to prevent it from rupturing, so you may get well faster. If you have certain other medical problems, this may be a safer approach.

Aneurysm EVARWhy choose EVAR treatments by our doctor?

The aorta is the largest artery in the body and it can involve many parts of the human body, as your arteries bring nutrients to important organs. It is important for an experienced surgeon to do the procedure as it involves the functioning of your organs. Our vascular surgeon in Singapore, is currently a regional proctor for simple and complex stenting EVAR procedures. He has been involved in teaching and training doctors in the region in this life-saving procedure and has helped doctors in Vietnam kick-start this procedure in their own hospitals. This minimally invasive method does not require General Anaesthesia and shortens the patient’s ICU stay.

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