Your aorta is a very large blood vessel that moves oxygen-rich blood throughout your body. An aortic aneurysm is a bulge at a weak spot on the wall of the aorta. If an aortic aneurysm starts to leak or ruptures, the consequences can be life threatening.
Left untreated, an aneurysm can tear open along the inner wall of your aorta (aortic dissection). This would quickly reduce blood flow and leave your body without enough oxygen to survive. A full rupture of the aorta would cause massive internal bleeding and unconsciousness.
If you experience symptoms of a burst aneurysm, such as chest or abdominal pain, rapid pulse, or clammy skin, call 9-1-1 for emergency medical attention.
Dignity Health doctors are skilled at managing many cardiovascular problems. Find a Doctor today to receive expert care for your cardiovascular condition, including aortic aneurysm treatment, in the Bay Area.
Innovative Treatment of Aortic Aneurysms at Dignity Health
Aortic aneurysms larger than two inches or that are growing rapidly require treatment. The type of treatment depends on the location and severity of the aneurysm.
Aneurysms developing in the chest (thoracic aortic aneurysm) are more likely to need treatment than aneurysms occurring in the abdomen. If they are small, abdominal aortic aneurysms may not require treatment, other than monitoring for changes in size.
Surgical treatment of aortic aneurysms include:
- Endovascular stent placement: A stent (piece of support mesh) is inserted to reinforce the weak part of the aorta wall and prevent it from bulging.
- Aortic graft placement: Surgery replaces a section of the aorta with a plastic or fabric graft. For thoracic aortic aneurysms, open heart surgery is typically necessary to insert the graft. Minimally invasive techniques are more often used in abdominal aortic aneurysm surgery.
Choosing Your Treatment
Treatment of a leaking or ruptured aneurysm is done on an emergency basis — you will not have an opportunity to choose a preferred procedure. However, if your aneurysm is intact, you will have time to discuss the risks and benefits of your treatment options with your Dignity Health doctor.
Abdominal aortic aneurysms may allow for a wait-and-see approach. Your doctor will advise against this approach for thoracic aortic aneurysms.
How to Prevent Aortic Aneurysms
Aortic aneurysms can occur in otherwise healthy people. However, you can take steps to minimize your risk.
Smoking is a major risk factor for abdominal aortic aneurysms in men. Quitting, or not smoking, can reduce the risk of occurrence. Other common prevention strategies include:
- Treating known heart conditions, such as high cholesterol
- Controlling high blood pressure
- Eating a heart-healthy diet
- Exercising regularly
Our doctors, nurses, and staff are committed to serving every patient with dignity and humankindness. Learn more about heart services at Dignity Health Bay Area hospitals.
Dignity Health offers state-of-the-art facilities and advanced care options, including aortic aneurysm treatments, in San Francisco, Santa Cruz, and Redwood City.