Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm: Examination and Diagnosis

by Kevin Pei, MD

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    00:01 How do we manage AAAs once it's been diagnosed? Let’s start with medical management.

    00:06 For patients who are asymptomatic, pharmacologic and lifestyle changes.

    00:11 You know this to be a very common theme in peripheral vascular disease.

    00:16 Pharmacologic patients can be placed on anti-lipid therapy.

    00:20 Statins again for plaque stability and antihypertensives.

    00:25 Remember, we talked about the wall stresses on the aorta.

    00:28 Beta blockers are particularly good at reducing wall stress.

    00:32 And like all other vascular diseases, lifestyle management is very important.

    00:37 Number one, stop smoking.

    00:39 And number two, weight loss.

    00:41 This also reduces the likelihood of hypercholesterolemia and hyperlipidemia.

    00:48 What are some indications for surgery? Remember, all symptomatic patients with AAAs require surgery.

    00:55 Now, let's discuss the asymptomatic patient.

    00:58 Generally speaking, if the diameter of the abdominal aortic aneurysm is greater than 5.5 cm or it's actually growing faster than 0.5 cm per year, these are potential indications for surgery.

    01:13 The discussion has been for many years now open versus endovascular techniques.

    01:18 You may be familiar with the concept of endovascular techniques.

    01:23 This is a hybrid open access to the femoral vessels, eventually using interventional radiology techniques to deploy a graft.

    01:33 This is opposed to the tried-and-true open method of opening the abdomen, accessing the aorta, removing the plaques and fixing the aneurysm.

    01:43 Other benefits and downsides to each? Of course, there are.

    01:47 Endovascular techniques is minimally invasive.

    01:51 These are done quickly and the patients are usually out of the hospital within a day or two.

    01:56 However, particularly in younger patients, endovascular techniques require lifelong surveillance, but it is associated with less perioperative morbidity.

    02:08 In open traditional technique, we know it to be durable.

    02:12 It's been tested over many decades and it may be more appropriate for young patients.

    02:18 However, as previously described, it has a little bit more perioperative morbidity.

    02:24 Once it's decided that the patient has indications for surgery, let’s discuss the surgical options.

    02:30 We discussed how there's open and endovascular techniques.

    02:34 Here, on this image, is an exposed open abdominal aortic aneurysm repair.

    02:40 You’ll notice that in the middle of the graph is already a graft placement of the previous aneurysmic sac.

    02:47 Next, let's take a look at endovascular deployment.

    02:51 To the left of the screen, you see the initial insertion of the graft.

    02:56 This is done through the common femoral, up the iliac, through the common iliac, into the – and past the aortic sac.

    03:04 And to the right of the screen, you see the aortic graft after deployment.

    03:09 Remember, both open and endovascular techniques, main goal is to bypass this aneurysmic sac.

    03:16 This also restores laminar flow.

    03:19 I’d like to pose a question to you.

    03:20 When is screening necessary? I’ll give you a second to think about it.

    03:26 Here's some guidelines for screening from preventative societies.

    03:30 First, any man aged 65 to 75, who have a history of smoking greater than 100 cigarettes per year, with no family history of AAAs, should be offered an ultrasound of the abdominal aorta.

    03:44 Younger men between the ages of 55 and 75 who have a family history of AAA can also be offered one.

    03:52 Don't forget, women also get AAAs even though there is a male preponderance.

    03:56 Women between the ages of 55 to 75 who have both a smoking history of greater than 100 cigarettes per year and a family history of AAA can be offered an ultrasound of the abdomen.

    04:08 Women of any age, who have neither smoking history nor family history of AAA, should not be offered screening as their incidence of an abdominal aortic aneurysm is low.

    04:19 Now, let's move on to important clinical pearls and high-yield information.

    04:24 Remember, any patient who presents with abdominal pain that has a known aortic aneurysm should prompt immediate workup for possible rupture.

    04:34 And if the classic clinical scenario is presented to you where the patient comes in with searing abdominal pain radiating to the back, you should immediately prompt both workup and management of an impending rupture.

    04:50 Now, pay particular attention to this high-yield information.

    04:54 I’d like to pose a clinical scenario to you.

    04:57 What if two days after a AAA repair, either open or endovascularly, you are called to the bedside because the patient now is presenting with bloody stools.

    05:08 What’s going on in your mind and what are the differential diagnosis.

    05:12 How will you manage this? I’ll give you a second to think about this.

    05:16 In this clinical scenario, it’s the classic description of ischemic colitis following a AAA repair.

    05:23 The reason behind this is the graft, whether it’s placed endovascularly or open, likely covered up the inferior mesenteric artery.

    05:32 As such, the inferior mesenteric artery is no longer supplying the sigmoid colon.

    05:37 This can lead to ischemic colitis.

    05:41 The workup includes a flexible sigmoidoscopy to identify areas of ischemia.

    05:46 And sometimes, the inferior mesenteric artery actually needs to be replanted.

    05:52 Thank you for joining me on this discussion of AAAs.

    About the Lecture

    The lecture Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm: Examination and Diagnosis by Kevin Pei, MD is from the course Special Surgery.

    Included Quiz Questions

    1. Ruptured abdominal aortic aneurysm.
    2. Ruptured aortic root aneurysm.
    3. Thoracoabdominal aortic aneurysm.
    4. Aortic root aneurysm.
    5. Abdominal aortic aneurysm.
    1. Ultrasonography.
    2. Plain radiographs.
    3. CT scan
    4. Angiography
    5. MRI

    Author of lecture Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm: Examination and Diagnosis

     Kevin Pei, MD

    Kevin Pei, MD

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