What is an aortic aneurysm?

An aneurysm is an artery that has grown to more than one-and-a-half time the normal size. The aorta is the largest artery in the body, which begins at the heart and gives off branches to all the major organs of the body. When the aorta has enlarged to greater than 3.0 centimeters in diameter, we consider the aorta aneurysmal.

 

Who gets aneurysms?

An estimated 1.7 million Americans have aortic aneurysms. Aneurysms grow mainly because of tobacco abuse, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, genetic predisposition, and high fat diet. The risk of aneurysms increases after the age of 50, and are more common in men than women.

 

What is the risk of an aneurysm?

As aneurysms grow, the wall of the artery weakens and thins out. When the aorta is larger than it should be, the artery can burst. This causes 15,000 deaths per year in the United States. In order to prevent rupture, we generally recommend repairing abdominal aortic aneurysms that are rapidly growing or when they grow larger than 5.0-5.5 centimeters. Aneurysms of the chest are usually repaired when they enlarge to 6.0 centimeters or grow rapidly. Some patients are candidates for replacement of the aneurysm with open surgery, while other aneurysms can be repaired through small incisions in the groin with a stent graft.