An aortic aneurysm is an abnormal widening or ballooning of a portion of the major artery from the heart, related to weakness in the wall of the blood vessel.
There are two main types of aortic aneurysms.
- Abdominal aortic aneurysms occur in the section of the aorta in the abdomen.
- Thoracic aortic aneurysms occur in the upper aorta, or the chest.
Most aneurysms are either congenital or acquired. While it's not clear exactly what causes aneurysms, defects in some of the components of the artery wall may be responsible and in certain cases like abdominal aortic aneurysms. High blood pressure and the build up of cholesterol in the arteries (Atherosclerotic disease) are thought to be contributing factors.
Physical exam, ultrasound examination, and CT scan are used to evaluate aneurysms.
Aortic aneurysm repair (surgery)
Aortic aneurysm repair, or aortic aneurysm surgery, is generally recommended; however, treatment options differ depending on the type of aneurysm. Abdominal aortic surgery is one option where an abdominal incision is made, and the surgeon replaces the diseased section of the aorta with a piece of synthetic tubing.
Stent-graft repair of abdominal aortic aneurysms is now available at MedStar Union Memorial Hospital to patients who are too sick to undergo major surgery and were previously untreatable. This minimally invasive procedure uses a stent-graft device — a cloth-covered metal frame — which is expanded within the aorta to alleviate pressure in the aneurysm sac and strengthen the artery wall. The procedure is performed through two small incisions in the groin area, rather than large incisions in the chest or abdomen, and uses local anesthesia. This procedure generally requires a one-night hospital stay, compared to 7 to 14 days for major surgery, and has high success rates and less recovery time.
MedStar Union Memorial's expertise with stent-graft repair of abdominal aortic and thoracic aortic aneurysms is unparalleled in the Mid-Atlantic region. We are one of the few FDA-designated research sites in the country, with high volumes of minimally invasive procedures like these. So you can take comfort in our experience and expertise.