What is an AAA?
An abdominal aortic aneurysm is the enlargement and weakening of the aorta (the largest artery in the body). Although it typically is asymptomatic and found on routine imaging studies (x-ray, CT scan), the most common symptom is referred pain to your lower back. Outcomes are deadly if undiagnosed and/or untreated.
What symptoms are associated with a “Triple A”?
The back pain will typically be sudden, severe, constant and have a pulsing quality. Pain may radiate into the groin region. Physical examination will demonstrate evidence of a widened and more palpable abdominal pulse (more than 1” from the midline) located above the belly button. Stethoscope auscultation may demonstrate “bruit” a whirling noise made as blood circles within the enlarged artery. Pulses in the lower legs may be weakened and unequal between the legs.
Who typically develops an AAA?
This condition has a slight predilection toward the male population. Persons are typically obese and may suffer from hypertension (high blood pressure) or hypercholesterolemia (high cholesterol). It is more prevalent in smokers and/or persons with breathing conditions (COPD, Emphysema). There is also a hereditary pattern to this condition. Each of the aforementioned habits/traits promotes arteriosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) that will predispose the arteries to damage.
How is it diagnosed?
When physical examination findings warrant further investigation, standard x-ray or a CT (cat) scan may be performed to evaluate the abdominal aorta. If enlargement is noted, it is measured and treated according to its severity.
When is surgery necessary?
Surgical repair is necessary if the abdominal aorta measures greater than 5.5cm in diameter or if while being monitored it has worsened greater than .6-.8cm within a year. This is considered a high-risk condition with a high mortality rate of 80% if rupture occurs.
How can chiropractic treatment help?
By proper diagnosis, evaluation and referral to a thoracic vascular specialist. Treatment of an AAA is contraindicated and one of the many disqualifiers of physical medicine treatment. That is one of the many reasons why a proper physical examination is performed prior to any treatment in our facility.
Dr. Custer is the owner/operator of Better Care Chiropractic& Physical Therapy with locations in Willis and Montgomery. Dr. Custer graduated from Texas Chiropractic College in 2005 with highest honors, Summa Cum Laude. He combines his 15 plus years of experience in injury rehabilitation (as an athletic trainer) with his chiropractic education to promote a fast and efficient recovery process. If you have questions or would like to request an article topic please send correspondence to: [email protected].