AAA is an abdominal aortic aneurysm, this is a swelling (aneurysm) of the aorta.
What is an aneurysm?
An aneurysm occurs when part of an artery wall weakens, as a result it widens abnormally, swelling out like a balloon. In this case we are focusing on the abdominal aorta, this is the largest blood vessel in the body. Think of the width of a garden hose (around 2cm wide) under normal conditions. It can swell to over twice the size, (5.5cm) – this is classed as a large AAA.
Large aneurysms are fairly rare however they can be extremely serious and if it bursts, will cause a tremendous amount of internal bleeding and is generally fatal.
A rupture accounts for more than 1 in 50 of all deaths of men over 65 and a total of 6,000 deaths in England and Wales each year.
It is unclear why it happens and could relate to smoking and high blood pressure.
Symptoms of an AAA
It is important to note that in most cases there are no noticeable, visible symptoms.
Because of the aorta swelling, some patients may develop a pain or experience a pulsating feeling in their abdomen, possibly together with persistent back pain. The most common symptom of a ruptured aortic aneurysm is sudden and severe pain in the abdomen. This in itself might not pose a serious threat to health,however, the risk is that a larger aneurysm could rupture and burst, causing massive internal bleeding – this is generally fatal.
Statistics show that around 8 out of 10 people with this type of rupture either die before they reach hospital or do not survive surgery.
If you suspect that the patient has had a ruptured aneurysm, call control immediately to update them on the situation.