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Aortic Aneurysms

What is an abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA)?

The aorta is the main artery from the heart and carries blood to the organs and limbs. An aortic aneurysm is an enlargement of the aorta. In the abdominal aorta an aneurysm is defined as an enlargement of the aorta of at least 1.5 times its normal diameter, or greater than 3 cm diameter in total.

Causes

Most are caused be atherosclerosis ("furring/hardening of the arteries"). Rarely the artery wall is weakend by hereditary conditions The main risk factors for AAA include smoking, high blood pressure, increasing age and a family history of aneurysms.

What is peripheral vascular disease?

This is when cholesterol and fat builds up in your arteries. This build up of fat and cholesterol causes the artery to become narrowed or blocked. If blood can not flow through the artery it reduces the blood supply to that area and can cause you to have symptoms such as cramping, pain in your arms, legs or abdomen.

Why do I need an angiogram?

Arteries supply blood to the organs and muscles in your body. An angiogram allows the doctor to see if there is a blockage or narrowing in a blood vessel that may interfere with the normal flow of blood though the body. These arteries can become partly blocked or completely blocked from a build up of cholesterol, cells or other material. This therefore reduces the blood flow to part of your body supply by those arteries e.g. your legs. An angiogram will provide your doctor with information to see if you need treatment such as angioplasty, bypass surgery or whether you can be treated with tablets. Your doctor may recommend an angiogram to diagnose a variety of problems with blood vessels including:

  • Blockages of the arteries outside of your heart, called peripheral vascular disease
  • Enlargement of the arteries, called aneurysms
  • Abnormally formed arteries, called vascular malformations
  • Kidney artery conditions.

Where will the procedure be done?

In a special room in the X-ray (radiology) department which is designated for this type of procedure. These vary in size and function from a small room to a large multipurpose operating theatre like that below. They are variously called interventional theatres, angio suites or cath labs.

How do I prepare for an angiogram?

You will usually be given a bed in the hospital. You may be asked to arrive in the hospital the day before the procedure or on the day of the procedure.You will be asked not to eat approximately 6 hours before the procedure. You will be given a hospital gown to wear. You will be seen by a doctor, the test will be explained to you and you will be asked to sign a consent form. This is to ensure you understand the test and its implications. The procedure is generally carried out using access via an artery in the groin. You may therefore be asked to shave the skin around this area.Please let the doctor know if you have any allergies. Please let the doctor know if you have had any previous reactions to X-ray (the dye used for kidney x-rays and CT scans). If you are diabetic on diabetic pills, you may be asked to not take these diabetic pills on the day of the procedure. If you are on any regular medication, please bring this in to hospital with you so that the doctor has a list of your medication which you take. Please inform your doctor if you are pregnant. The doctor or nurse may put a needle into your arm so that you can have some sedation or painkillers during the procedure.

How safe is procedure

Safe enough to ensure you understand the test and its implications. The procedure is generally carried out using access via an artery in the groin. You may therefore be asked to shave the skin around this area.Please let the doctor know if you have any allergies. Please let the doctor know if you have had any previous reactions to X-ray (the dye used for kidney x-rays and CT scans). If you are diabetic on diabetic pills, you may be asked to not take these diabetic pills on the day of the procedure. If you are on any regular medication, please bring this in to hospital with you so that the doctor has a list of your medication which you take. Please inform your doctor if you.

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