The aorta is the largest vessel in your body, delivering blood from your heart to the rest of your body. An aneurysm is when the aorta enlarges abnormally. The wall of the aorta consists of layers. If the inner layer peels off, this is called a dissection.
Many patients with aneurysms and dissections do not experience any symptoms. When they do cause symptoms, patients usually experience pain between the shoulders, in the abdomen or in the back. If the aneurysm or dissection leaks, patients bleed internally and may feel weak or collapse.
If you have a large aneurysm in your abdomen, your doctor may be able to diagnose you by physically examining you. If you have an aneurysm of the aorta in your chest, your doctor may be able to diagnose you using X-ray. Ultrasound can be used to diagnose aortic aneurysms of the chest or abdomen. CT and MRI will diagnose aneurysms of any part of the aorta.
The treatment you will be given depends on the size of the aneurysm or dissection, the symptoms you experience and the rate of change. The aim of treatment is to prevent the affected area from rupturing or, if it has already ruptured, to treat the rupture.
Small aneurysms can be managed conservatively by imaging follow-up and no treatment. Aneurysms which are large or are still growing may be managed by minimally invasive approaches, which place a prosthetic tube through a small hole inside the aneurysm to protect its weak walls. Alternatively, a more suitable treatment option for you may be open surgery, in which a doctor will stitch in a prosthetic tube to replace the weakened aorta.