Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm (AAA)

An abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) is a life-threatening stretching or ballooning of the aorta, the body’s main blood vessel. If the pressure on the aneurysm is too great, it can burst. Learn how AAA is diagnosed and treated at Lehigh Valley Institute for Surgical Excellence.

An abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) is a life-threatening stretching or ballooning of the aorta, the body’s main blood vessel. If the pressure on the aneurysm is too great, it can burst and may lead to death.

About abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA)

Abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) symptoms are typically mild before it ruptures. It usually is detected during tests performed for other reasons. That is why it is important to be tested, especially if you are at a greater risk for developing an AAA.

Risk factors for AAA:

  • Male age 55 or older
  • Have high blood pressure (hypertension)
  • Smoker
  • Family history of arterial disease

Your physician may recommend screening by computed tomography (CT) scan, angiogram (also known as arteriogram), Doppler ultrasound or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

The earlier specialists vascular specialists with Lehigh Valley Institute for Surgical Excellence diagnose and treat the condition, the more likely you will avoid complications in the future. Our vascular surgery program cares for a large number of people with AAA, so our doctors have the experience you need.

Treatment for unruptured AAA

If you are diagnosed with an abdominal aortic aneurysm that is not in danger of rupturing, your doctor may order periodic diagnostic tests to ensure the aneurysm is not growing. You may be able to prevent it from enlarging by quitting smoking, controlling blood sugar if you’re diabetic and losing weight. However, if your aneurysm requires surgery, you can receive the care you need at Lehigh Valley Institute for Surgical Excellence. Our vascular surgeons perform hundreds of procedures every year.

We offer two of the latest less-invasive treatments for AAA:

  • Endovascular aneurysm repair (EVAR): Endovascular aneurysm repair (EVAR) with Heli-FX® technology is effective and may benefit patients who are not eligible for other surgical treatments. EVAR was first performed in the Lehigh Valley area at Lehigh Valley Health Network. EVAR is a minimally invasive (without a large incision) procedure that repairs an abdominal aortic aneurysm. EVAR may be performed in an operating room or a cardiac catheterization laboratory. The surgeon will make a small incision in each groin to access the femoral arteries in each leg. With the use of special instruments, along with X-ray images for guidance, a cloth and wire mesh tube, called a stent-graft, will be inserted through the femoral artery and advanced up into the aorta to the site of the aneurysm. The stent helps to hold the graft in place.The stent-graft is inserted into the aorta in a collapsed position and placed at the aneurysm site. Once in place, the stent-graft will be expanded (in a spring-like fashion), attaching to the wall of the aorta to provide support. The aneurysm eventually will shrink down onto the stent-graft. Compared to open surgery, this technique has less risk for complications and allows patients to recover more quickly.
  • Fenestrated endovascular aneurysm repair (FEVAR): Fenestrated endovascular aneurysm repair treats more complex types of AAA. FEVAR is a leading treatment offered at only a handful of centers nationwide. The new Zenith® Fenestrated Graft is recommended as an endovascular approach to repair AAAs in patients with inadequate infrarenal neck landing zones for traditional EVAR. It is still minimally invasive like that of the normal EVAR procedure, yet offers more flexibility in its requirements for use.

Follow-up care for AAA

After surgery for an abdominal aortic aneurysm, the team at Lehigh Valley Institute for Surgical Excellence is here to help you recover. Rehabilitation is an important part of your recovery. You will benefit from an individualized program of supervised exercise and health education.

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