An aortic aneurysm is a bulge occurring in the primary artery that leads from the heart. Aortic aneurysms commonly occur in the abdomen below the kidneys. Aortic aneurysms can be remedied by surgery while the bulge is still intact, but they always require emergency surgery if the bulge ruptures. So, what are the surgical treatment options for the condition and what is the aortic aneurysm survival rate?
The treatment for an aortic aneurysm is dependent on the size of the aneurysm, the person’s age, and their general health.
Large aortic aneurysms (over 5.4 cm) are at a high risk of rupturing and are therefore generally treated surgically to strengthen the swollen area of the vessel or to replace it altogether with a piece of synthetic tubing.
Smaller or medium sized aortic aneurysms between 3.0cm and 5.4 cm may be monitored by way of MRI scans to check their size. Rather than immediate surgery, you may be advised to make lifestyle changes, such as stopping smoking, and you may be given medication to control your blood pressure and cholesterol. High blood pressure can predispose and aortic aneurysm to rupturing and high cholesterol can cause the arteries to harden.
Endovascular surgery may be used to treat your aortic aneurysm. This entails keyhole surgery to insert a small tube into your aorta via the main artery in your leg. The tube (graft) is sealed into the wall of the aorta in the swollen area to reinforce it and reduce the risk of it rupturing.
Open surgery involves the surgeon making an incision into the abdomen in order to reach the aorta. The enlarged section of the vessel is then replaced with a synthetic graft, which is stitched firmly into place. Open surgery is slightly more risky than endovascular surgery and is not generally used for people in poor health.
A long-term study that was carried out from 1987 to 2005 examined patient outcomes over 8,663 operations to repair intact aortic aneurysms, and 4,171 that were carried out to repair ruptured aortic aneurysms.
The overall results of the study used a five-year aortic aneurysm survival rate, excluding patients who passed away within 90 days following surgery. The expected overall survival rate in the broader population with the same basic demographic characteristics was used as a ‘control’ figure.
Patients with intact aortic aneurysms that were repaired enjoyed a five-year survival rate of 90.3%, with most patients living for an average of almost nine years following surgery. Around 87% of patients who underwent surgery to repair a ruptured aortic aneurysm survived for over 5.4 years.
There was no recorded difference in the survival rates between men and women or between different age groups. However, there were differences found in the survival rates of those who had undergone repair of intact aortic aneurysms.
In patients in their 80s, the relative survival rate was 10.2% higher than those in the age group of 79 and under. The survival rate in male patients was 4.6% higher than that of female patients. Researchers found that the survival difference between men and women with intact aortic aneurysm repairs was probably higher due to increased levels of plaque build-up causing thickening of the arteries (atherosclerosis) in women.
If you have a small aortic aneurysm that is being monitored, you can reduce the risk of complications in the future by making a few lifestyle changes.
In addition to giving up smoking and taking blood pressure and cholesterol medication that is prescribed for you by your doctor, you should eat a healthy diet, maintain a body weight that is appropriate for your height, and take moderate regular exercise.
Aortic aneurysm is a serious condition that is usually treated surgically, either as a preventative measure or to treat a ruptured aortic aneurysm. The survival rate in aortic aneurysm sufferers following surgery is good, providing that the recommended drug therapy is followed and the necessary lifestyle changes are made.