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What is Aortic Aneurysm? An Asymptomatic Heart Condition That Can Increase The Risk of Sudden Cardiac Death

Aortic aneurysms are a serious but under-recognized health problem that ranks as the third leading cause of sudden cardiac death. From symptoms to treatment, here’s everything you need to know about this silent killer.

What is aortic aneurysm? An asymptomatic heart condition that can increase the risk of sudden cardiac death (Source: freepik)

Aortic aneurysms, which are often asymptomatic, are the third leading cause of sudden cardiac death, experts said Sunday, stressing the need to raise awareness about the deadly heart disease. Aortic aneurysms are a dilation of the main blood vessel, the aorta, which carries blood from the heart to the rest of the body. They affect about 2 to 3 percent of the population, but the risk is increased by certain factors such as atherosclerosis (cholesterol buildup in blood vessels), high blood pressure and genetic deficiency in certain patients.

What are aortic aneurysms?

“Aortic aneurysms represent a critical but under-recognized health problem that ranks as the third leading cause of sudden cardiac death, behind only heart attacks and cardiac arrests,” Niranjan Hiremath, senior consultant, cardiovascular and aortic surgery at Indraprastha Apollo Hospital in New Delhi, told IANS. “When the wall of the aorta weakens, it can dilate to twice or even three times its normal diameter, creating a significant risk of sudden rupture, which can lead to immediate death or result in aortic dissections, another serious complication,” he added.

“Most unruptured aortic aneurysms do not cause symptoms. As they enlarge, symptoms such as abdominal pain and back pain may appear. If left untreated, aneurysms tend to enlarge progressively and may present life-threatening complications,” added Shiv Choudhary, Executive Director, Adult Cardiothoracic and Vascular Surgery, Fortis Escorts Heart Institute, Okhla Road, New Delhi.

Causes and symptoms

Aneurysms can develop in any segment of the aorta, but most often affect the abdominal aorta. Experts noted that genetic predispositions, trauma or infections, and smoking may also contribute to the risk of aortic aneurysms.

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“It weakens the wall of the aorta and eventually leads to aortic rupture. In case of rupture, massive internal bleeding occurs and unless treated immediately, shock and death can result. The other fatal complication is a dissection of the aorta. In dissection, the layers of the aortic wall are split. This can lead to poor perfusion to the brain or visceral organs or eventually rupture. In both situations, emergency intervention is warranted,” Shiv told IANS.


Open surgery used to be the main mode of treatment. Recently, there has been a paradigm shift towards minimally invasive techniques of endovascular stenting, which are associated with low risk, minimal morbidity and low mortality, VS Bedi, director of surgery and chairman, Institute of Vascular and Endovascular Sciences, Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, New Delhi, told IANS.

“Aneurysms should be treated when the size of the aorta increases to more than 5 cm as an increase of more than 6 cm can cause sudden leakage/rupture which can be fatal,” the doctor added. Experts also recommended strict blood pressure control for patients with the condition and a ban on tobacco in any form. Patients with diagnosed aneurysms should avoid strenuous physical sports and isometric exercise but can walk and perform gentle aerobic exercises.

(Inputs: IANS)

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