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Vascular Surgery / Studies

What is an aortic aneurysm?

The aorta is the main artery in the body. It runs from the heart, through the chest and abdomen and supplies branches to all the major organs.

An aortic aneurysm is a bulge or ballooning of the aorta, usually in the abdominal aorta. This is a result of weakening of the artery wall, which then stretches due to the pressure of the blood flowing through the aorta, to form an aneurysm.

The aneurysm weakens the wall of the aorta and can end in the aorta rupturing with catastrophic consequences. As the diameter of the aneurysm increases, the chances of the aneurysm rupturing rise dramatically.

Large aortic aneurysms are very perilous and can be silent, with few or no symptoms. Men over 60 are particularly at risk and the government is close to introducing a national screening programme to detect aneurysms before they cause problems.

The larger the aneurysm is, the greater the chance that it might rupture (burst) and if an aneurysm ruptures it can be fatal.

Fortunately, aneurysms can be repaired safely. Both open surgery and keyhole surgery (EVAR) with stents are available at Southmead Hospital (North Bristol NHS Trust) through the Vascular Network. The best method to repair each aneurysm depends upon several factors, including the location and shape of the aneurysm as well as the overall health of the patient.

More detailed information is available from:

Next Section: How can an aortic aneurysm be treated?

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