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Abdominal Aortic Aneurysms (AAA)

What is an Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm (AAA)? An abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) is a weakened, bulging area in the aorta, the largest blood vessel in your abdomen. The aorta carries blood from your heart to the rest of your body. When an AAA occurs, it can pose a serious health risk if left untreated.

How do AAAs Develop? AAAs typically develop slowly over time, often without noticeable symptoms. The wall of the aorta weakens and begins to balloon out, increasing the risk of rupture.


The exact cause is not always clear, but several factors can contribute:

Risk Factors for AAAs:

  1. Age: The risk of AAA increases with age, particularly in people over 65.

  2. Gender: Men are more likely than women to develop AAAs.

  3. Tobacco Use: Smoking is a significant risk factor for AAA development and growth.

  4. Family History: If close relatives have had AAAs, you may be at higher risk.

  5. High Blood Pressure: Hypertension can increase the risk of an AAA.

  6. Atherosclerosis: Hardening of the arteries can weaken the aortic wall.

  7. Other Cardiovascular Conditions: Conditions like coronary artery disease can increase AAA risk.


Medical Treatment:

Monitoring and controlling risk factors is crucial for managing AAA. Y

our doctor may recommend:

  • Regular check-ups to monitor the size and growth of the aneurysm.

  • Blood pressure management.

  • Lifestyle changes, such as quitting smoking and adopting a heart-healthy diet.

  • Medications to control blood pressure and cholesterol.


Surgical and Endovascular Treatments:

If the AAA reaches a certain size (generally >55mm) or poses a high risk of rupture (due to symptoms, or shape), your doctor may recommend one of the following procedures:

  1. Open Surgical Repair: Involves replacing the weakened aorta with a synthetic graft. This procedure requires a large abdominal incision and general anesthesia. 

  2. Endovascular Aneurysm Repair (EVAR): A less invasive procedure where a stent-graft is placed inside the aneurysm through small incisions in the groin or other arteries. EVAR is suitable for some patients but not all, depending on the aneurysm's size, shape, and location.


Risks Associated with AAA Treatments:

Both surgical and endovascular treatments carry certain risks, although they are generally unlikely to occur, including:

  • Bleeding: During surgery, there is a risk of bleeding, which can sometimes be severe.

  • Infection: Infections can occur at the incision sites.

  • Blood Clots: Blood clots may develop in the legs or lungs after surgery.

  • Organ Damage: In rare cases, adjacent organs may be injured during surgery.

  • Endoleak: In EVAR, a complication where blood continues to flow into the aneurysm after stent placement.


Dr Simon Vun, FRACS will discuss the potential risks and benefits of treatment options with you, taking into account your specific situation.


Abdominal aortic aneurysms are a serious medical condition that requires careful monitoring and, in some cases, intervention. Understanding your risk factors and following your doctor's recommendations for managing AAA can help you maintain your health and well-being.


If you have any questions or concerns about AAA, don't hesitate to discuss them with your healthcare team.

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