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Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm
Symptoms & Screening

Over 80% of aneurysms occur in males and take years to form; however, there are no abdominal aortic aneurysm symptoms associated with its development. Therefore, patients may not be aware they have an aneurysm until it ruptures, which causes severe back and/or abdominal pain as well as loss of consciousness. Our physicians may detect an aneurysm prior to rupture by physical examination or by abdominal aortic aneurysm screening via ultrasound, X-ray, CT or MRI. Click here to hear Dr. William Rose explain more about Abdominal Aortic Aneurysms.

Because there are no abdominal aortic aneurysm symptoms until it ruptures, it is important to obtain screening, as 70 – 90% of patients with a ruptured aneurysm will not survive. The risk of aneurysm rupture is related to its size. The larger the aneurysm, the greater the risk of rupture. During abdominal aortic aneurysm screening, your physician will determine your risk of rupture. When the risk of rupture exceeds the risk of repair, your physician will recommend surgery.

Prepare for Your Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm Screening: Learn About Aneurysms

An aneurysm is a swelling or enlargement of a blood vessel. The aorta is the largest artery in your body. An abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) is an aneurysm that affects the part of the aorta located in the abdominal area. The aorta originates from the heart and travels down your body, just in front of your spine. As it travels down your body it gives off branches, or arteries, that supply blood to all your organs, including your stomach, intestines, liver and kidneys. It finally divides into the iliac arteries at about the level of the navel and supplies blood to the legs. Over 90% of aneurysms in the aorta occur in the section of the aorta in your abdomen just below the arteries branching to the kidneys.

Because you may not experience abdominal aortic aneurysm symptoms, you should obtain regular examinations from your physician. DeKalb Medical’s Heart and Vascular Institute provides Atlanta-based abdominal aortic aneurysm screening as well as a host of other vascular screening services.

Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm Symptoms and Signs

Most individuals do not experience abdominal aortic aneurysm symptoms, so many aortic aneurysms are discovered during examinations or tests performed for other reasons. However, those that do have abdominal aortic aneurysm symptoms may experience the following:

  • A mass may be felt in the abdomen, or a pulsation may be seen when the person is lying down.
  • Pain may occur if the aneurysm presses on nerves or nearby organs.
  • Additional abdominal aortic aneurysm symptoms that you may experience include small blood clots, called emboli, showering from the aneurysm and moving into the feet, causing the toes to turn blue and feel painful.
  • When an aneurysm bursts, there is sudden, severe pain in the abdomen and/or back. An individual will feel faint from low blood pressure and then rapidly go into shock. Death will occur unless the blood pressure is maintained and the person receives surgical repair immediately.

Prepare yourself – learn more about risk factors for vascular disease or learn about the various vascular services we provide.

Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm Screening

Emory Decatur Hospital and Emory Hillandale provide Atlanta-based abdominal aortic aneurysm screening using ultrasound technology to measure the size of your abdominal aorta. The process is painless.

What Can I Learn From This Test?

The abdominal aorta should measure less than 3 centimeters. If it measures more than 3 centimeters, an aneurysm is suspected. There are 2 types of aneurysms, and our ultrasound equipment can screen for both. Abnormal abdominal aortic aneurysm screening results do not necessarily indicate the presence of an aneurysm, but they do warrant a visit to your physician for further evaluation.

How Is Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm Screening Performed?

You will be asked to lie on your back on an exam table. Our technologist will apply gel to your abdomen. During the abdominal aortic aneurysm screening, images and measurements of your aorta will be taken by moving an instrument called a transducer across your abdomen.

Who Should Have the Test?

Anyone who has risk factors for AAA, or who is experiencing any of the above abdominal aortic aneurysm symptoms should have this screening.

How Often Should I Get Screened?

This is a personal decision, based on your risk factors, any abdominal aortic aneurysm symptoms you may have experienced, and previous screening results.

How Do I Prepare for the Test?

  • Wear a comfortable 2-piece outfit consisting of loose clothing.
  • Fast for 4 hours prior to your screening.
  • Make sure the meal you eat 4 hours prior to your screening is a light one (less than ½ of what you normally eat of non-gassy foods).
  • If you are thirsty during your fasting period, you may have ½ cup of coffee or tea and a moderate amount of water.
  • If you take medication, take it as prescribed.

If you are diabetic and are not comfortable fasting for 4 hours, please limit yourself to a “diabetic meal” (piece of toast, 1 cup of any kind of juice and ½ cup of coffee or tea). If you are in doubt, please follow your diabetic care plan.

About Your Results

Your abdominal aortic aneurysm screening will be reviewed by one of our board-certified physicians and discussed with you the same day of your screening. Your primary care physician will receive a detailed report of your results in the mail.

Contact your physician to learn more about abdominal aortic aneurysm symptoms or to learn more about signs of vascular disease.

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