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ASK THE DOCTOR: What is an aneurysm and how do I know if I’m at risk for one?

Dr. KavianiAn aneurysm is a dilation of a blood vessel that can occur anywhere in the body but is commonly in the aorta, just above the belly button. An abdominal aortic aneurysm, or AAA, is concerning because it has the potential to rupture once it reaches 5 to 5 ••• centimeters in size. At this point, your risk of rupture increases two to five percent every year.

Fortunately, repairing an AAA is easier than it used to be. We deploy a device the size of a pencil through the femoral artery in the groin. This device forms a seal above and below the aneurysm. Every year the patient receives a CT scan to ensure the device is in place.

“We recommend one-time ultrasound screening for abdominal aortic aneurysm in men aged 65 to 75 who have ever smoked.”

Because there are usually no symptoms, many AAA’s are discovered by accident during patient screening for other conditions, such as gallstones. However, some patients may feel a new, sharp pain in the back or abdomen.

You’re at higher risk for an aneurysm if you’re a man, have ever smoked, have high blood pressure, and are of Scandinavian or Japanese descent.

It’s critical that we find and repair large aneurysms in patients because rupture is usually fatal. One time screening is recommended for men over age 65 who smoked. Contact your primary care physician for details.