Abdominal aortic aneurysms are often an incidental finding during a routine check-up and routine medical tests (e.g. chest X-ray or ultrasound of the heart or abdomen).
To diagnose an abdominal aortic aneurysm, your doctor will perform a physical examination, ask about your symptoms and discuss your medical history. He will suggest one or more diagnostic tests. These include:
- Abdominal ultrasound uses sound waves to produce pictures of the structures within the upper abdomen. This test is most commonly used to diagnose abdominal aortic aneurysms.
- Computerized tomography (CT) scan combines a series of X-ray images taken from different angles and uses computer processing to create cross-sectional images, or slices, of the aorta. It can detect the size and shape of an aneurysm.
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) uses a magnetic field and pulses of radio wave energy to create detailed images of internal organs. It is used to diagnose an aneurysm and determine its size and location.
If you have bleeding inside your body from an aortic aneurysm, you will need surgery right away.
If the aneurysm is small and there are no symptoms, surgery is rarely done.You and your doctor must decide if the risk of having surgery is smaller than the risk of bleeding if you do not have surgery. Your doctor may want to check the size of the aneurysm with ultrasound tests every 6 months.
Most of the time, surgery is done if the aneurysm is bigger than 2 inches (5 centimeters) across or growing quickly. The goal is to do surgery before complications develop. There are two types of surgery:
- Open repair: A large cut is made in your abdomen. The abnormal vessel is replaced with a graft made of man-made material.
- Endovascular stent grafting: This procedure can be done without making a large cut in your abdomen, so you may recover more quickly. This may be a safer approach if you have certain other medical problems or are older adults. Endovascular repair can sometimes be done for a leaking or bleeding aneurysm.