Many conditions within the heart can cause serious complications, and the scary part is that most of them go undetected. One such problem is the development of an abdominal aortic aneurysm or AAA. The aorta is the major blood vessel that supplies blood to the entire body. When this vessel enlarges or develops a bulge, it causes an aneurysm on the lower side, which is in the stomach area. The ominous part of developing an AAA is that it happens over time and without any warning signs. As the aneurysm enlarges, it pressures the organs and tissues in the surrounding area.

In some instances, the aneurysm will rupture and cause internal bleeding that is life-threatening if not handled immediately by a cardiologist. At Concierge Consultants & Cardiology, we educate our patients and ask those at risk to have a test done that can identify such issues. Screenings for abdominal aortic aneurysms are non-invasive. So, anyone who is in the high-risk category should be screened to ensure there’s no bulging that can cause serious complications.

What Happens During the AAA Screening?

Ultrasounds are the most common method used to screen for AAA. The procedure is entirely painless and is over in a matter of minutes. A technician here at our Fort Lauderdale clinic will apply gel to your abdomen. Using a transducer, which is a handheld device, they will rub the wand across your stomach. The transducer produces an image that can be seen on a screen. It gives us precise pictures of the aorta so we can see if there are any abnormalities that must be addressed. To ensure we get a clear picture of the aorta, we often ask you to fast from drinking and eating for a few hours before the screening. This ensures the abdomen isn’t full and gives us the best chance at a clear line of sight. Once the screening is complete, the images obtained will need to be reviewed by a radiologist. These trained professionals can see if the aorta is the right size and in good condition. They can quickly identify any problematic abnormalities so we can take quick action. The entire process from start to finish is quick and painless, but it can give you peace of mind if you fall into the high-risk category.

Risk Factors for AAA

Some folks are at a higher risk of developing AAA. Age is the most significant risk factor, as anyone over 65 has a heightened chance due to the buildup of plaque in the arteries that occurs naturally with time. Here are some other common risk factors we see for this severe condition.

Gender: Ironically, men are more prone to develop an abdominal aortic aneurysm than women. Studies aren’t sure why these occurrences favor males, but the numbers are hard to deny.
Smoking: The use of cigarettes or cigars significantly increases the risk of developing an AAA. Those who’ve smoked for many years or smoked excessive amounts are in the higher risk category.
Genetics: If your parents or grandparents had AAA, it increases your chances of developing this condition. Family history is a strong contender in the development of an abdominal aortic aneurysm.
Hypertension: Having high blood pressure puts unnecessary stress on the aorta. If your hypertension is not adequately managed, it can cause this vessel to weaken and expand over time.
Injuries: If you’ve had any trauma or damage to the chest area or the abdomen, it increases the chances of AAA. Anything that weakens the aorta can lead to the development of an aneurysm.
Heart Disease: Heart disease is known as the silent killer. If you’ve been diagnosed with any cardiovascular diseases, it puts you in the high-risk category. Things like coronary artery or peripheral artery disease have direct links to AAA.
Genetic Tissue Disorders: Some conditions, like Ehlers-Danlos and Marfan syndrome, are genetic illnesses affecting the body’s connective tissues. While the medical community has yet to prove why the heightened risk exists, those with these syndromes are more likely to develop an AAA.
Infection or Inflammation: The aorta can become infected or inflamed like any other body part. These conditions can cause the vessel wall to weaken, and this allows an aneurysm to develop quickly. When there’s any inflammation or infection around the heart or the vessels, we closely monitor for AAA and other complications.
Hardening of the Arteries: Atherosclerosis is where the plaque inside the arteries builds and turns hard from the calcifications. Some things can be done to help this condition, but it’s a serious matter that can cause AAA, as well as heart attacks and strokes.

Preventing AAA and Getting Proper Screenings

Dr. Tiffany Di Pietro understands the risk factors and identifies individuals who can benefit from these screenings. As a quadruple board-certified physician, she takes her role as a cardiologist seriously. She knows that taking care of your heart and using preventative measures is imperative to living a long life. She’s dedicated to helping the people of Fort Lauderdale and the surrounding communities get the proper testing and preventative care. Anyone who’s in the high-risk category for AAA or who has other issues that need the help of a cardiologist should make an appointment to be evaluated by this gifted expert.

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