It is scary to think that inside your body, there could be an undetected aneurysm acting like a ticking time bomb. Aneurysms do not come along with symptoms and are typically only detected through screenings.
68-year-old Robert Jean has a clean bill of health today. But three years ago, a routine check-up yielded a very different outcome. "The doctor said 'no, there's something wrong here,' we've got to do something else,'" said Jean.
A CT scan showed that Jean had an abdominal aortic aneurysm, a bulge in the wall of a weakened blood vessel, as Dr. King White with Lake Charles Memorial's Heart and Vascular Center explains. "It can occur in any artery in the body, but it usually occurs in the abdominal aorta, just below the kidneys," said Dr. White.
When an abdominal aortic aneurysm reaches more than 5.5 centimeters, a lot like a large lemon, that is when you hit the danger zone. "A ruptured aneurysm has a greater than 50 percent mortality, it's an emergency operation, emergency surgery, a lot of blood loss and they're very, very risky," said Dr. White.
Abdominal aortic aneurysms are called "silent killers" because there are typically no symptoms leading up to a potentially deadly rupture. That is why Dr. White says screenings, like ultrasounds, are so important in addition to knowing your risk factors. "Abdominal aneurysms are six times more common in men than in women. Also, smoking is a big risk factor for abdominal aneurysms, along with family history and age," said Dr. White.
Jean quit smoking and underwent a stent graft to create new walls in the damaged blood vessel for the blood to flow through. "We make two small puncture sites in the groins and we put half of the graft up one side and the other half of the graft up the other side and connect them once they get inside," said Dr. White.
Three years after the procedure, Jean's aneurysm is still there, but much smaller and not dangerous. He says that is only thanks to a screening and early intervention. "It was dangerous for me at the time and I didn't even know. I would advise anyone: get checked for it," said Jean.
While ultrasounds to detect aneurysms are simple and relatively inexpensive, most physicians do not order them unless other symptoms are present. If you are over age 60, or 55 with a family history of abdominal aortic aneurysms, Aneurysm Outreach is partnering up with Lake Charles Memorial Hospital to offer free ultrasounds on May 11th. Space is limited, so you must call 494-2799 to get an appointment.