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Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm

WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW:

An abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) is a bulge in your aorta that occurs when the aorta's walls are weakened. The aorta is a large blood vessel that extends from your heart to your abdomen. An AAA may develop anywhere in your aorta, but it often occurs in your lower abdomen, near your navel.


CARE AGREEMENT:

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment.

RISKS:

  • The larger the AAA, the greater the risk that it will leak or burst. Large AAAs grow faster than smaller ones. AAAs also grow faster in people who smoke and the elderly. You have a higher risk that your AAA will burst if you have high blood pressure. Your AAA may burst more than once. It may also burst when you are younger if you have a family history of AAA.

  • You may get blood clots in your AAA or other body areas. The clots could break loose and block blood flow in your lungs, heart, or legs. This can cause a stroke. Your AAA may burst during surgery to repair it. Your AAA may also need more than one surgery. Your caregiver may not be able to repair your AAA if you are in poor health. An AAA that bursts can cause life-threatening bleeding without prompt treatment.

WHILE YOU ARE HERE:

Informed consent

is a legal document that explains the tests, treatments, or procedures that you may need. Informed consent means you understand what will be done and can make decisions about what you want. You give your permission when you sign the consent form. You can have someone sign this form for you if you are not able to sign it. You have the right to understand your medical care in words you know. Before you sign the consent form, understand the risks and benefits of what will be done. Make sure all your questions are answered.

Monitoring:

  • Vital signs: Caregivers will check your blood pressure, heart rate, breathing rate, and temperature. They will also ask about your pain. These vital signs give caregivers information about your current health.

  • Heart monitor: Sticky pads placed on your skin record your heart's electrical activity.

  • Pulse oximeter: A pulse oximeter is a device that measures the amount of oxygen in your blood. A cord with a clip or sticky strip is placed on your finger, ear, or toe. The other end of the cord is hooked to a machine. Never turn the pulse oximeter or alarm off. An alarm will sound if your oxygen level is low or cannot be read.

  • Intake and output: Caregivers will keep track of the amount of liquid you are getting. They also may need to know how much you are urinating. Ask how much liquid you should drink each day. Ask caregivers if they need to measure or collect your urine.

  • Arterial line: An arterial line is a tube that is placed into an artery (blood vessel), usually in the wrist or groin. The groin is the area where your abdomen meets your upper leg. An arterial line may be used for measuring your blood pressure or for taking blood.

Tests:

  • Blood tests: You may need blood taken to give caregivers information about how your body is working. The blood may be taken from your hand, arm, or IV. Your caregiver may also test your blood type in case you need more blood during surgery.

  • Urine sample: For this test you need to urinate into a small container. You will be given instructions on how to clean your genital area before you urinate. Do not touch the inside of the cup. Follow instructions on where to place the cup of urine when you are done.

  • 12-lead heart test: This test is also called an EKG or ECG. Sticky pads are placed on your skin to record your heart's electrical activity. An EKG gives information about how your heart is working. Lie as still as possible during the test.

  • Ultrasound: This test is done so caregivers can see the aorta, tissues, and organs inside your abdomen. Your caregiver will put gel on a sensor and move it across your abdomen. The sensor uses sound waves to send pictures of your abdomen to a monitor. This test allows your caregiver to see if you have an AAA and where it is.

  • CT scan (CAT scan): An x-ray machine and computer are used to take pictures of the organs and blood vessels in your abdomen. CT scan will check the size and location of your AAA and show if it has burst. The size of your AAA will help your caregiver decide how to best treat your condition. You may be given dye before this test to help the pictures of your AAA show up better. This dye will be given through your IV. Tell your caregiver if you are allergic to iodine or shellfish. This may mean you are allergic to some dyes.

  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): An MRI uses a powerful magnet and a computer to take pictures of your body. It may be used to scan your AAA for its location and size. You may also need dye before this test to help the pictures show up better.

Treatment and management:

Treatment will depend on the size of your AAA. Your caregiver may watch your AAA over time instead of treating it if the tests show it is small. Some AAAs stay small and may not need treatment. You may need the following:

  • Pain medicine: Caregivers may give you medicine to take away or decrease your pain.

    • Do not wait until the pain is severe to ask for your medicine. Tell caregivers if your pain does not decrease. The medicine may not work as well at controlling your pain if you wait too long to take it.

    • Pain medicine can make you dizzy or sleepy. Prevent falls by calling a caregiver when you want to get out of bed or if you need help.

  • Blood pressure and cholesterol medicine: You may be given blood pressure or cholesterol medicine to help stop your AAA from growing.

  • Surgery: You may need surgery to repair your AAA if it is large or grows fast. You will also need surgery if your AAA has leaked or burst. The procedure may be done through a large vein or by abdominal surgery. Your caregiver may do surgery to repair your AAA if you have no other health problems or if you are in pain.

© 2014 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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