Detection & Diagnosis: The 4 Means of Locating Aortic Aneurysms


Before rupture occurs

In cases of suspected aortic aneurysms, either in the abdominal or thoracic region, the outcome can be deadly if not detected early. An aortic aneurysm is when a bulge occurs on a portion of the aorta - the main artery of the body. The bulge, stretching and weakening the aorta, is prone to bursting, which can cause to life-threatening bleeding and death. Aortic aneurysms can be caused through a multitude of factors, but are usually the result of prior medical conditions, such as hypertension or atherosclerosis, which ultimately lead to the arterial walls weakening. Aortic aneurysms can be detected through many symptoms, all of which range from patient to patient. In most cases, an aneurysm can cause pain in the stomach, chester, or back, which worsens if an aneurysm ruptures.

Though the potential rupture of an aneurysm can seem daunting, it's important to recognize that either your medical doctor or vascular special is able to tap into a wide number of tests to help detect and diagnose either abdominal or thoracic aortic aneurysms before they progress or rupture. With that said, here are some of the methods of testing that can be used for diagnosing aortic aneurysms.

1. Abdominal Ultrasound

In order to evaluate the progress and development of abdominal aortic aneurysm, an abdominal ultrasound may be performed to evaluate how the various structures of the abdomen are responding. The process itself is usually recommended for men from the ages of 65 to 75 that are current/former cigarette smokers, but can be highly useful when it comes to detecting abdominal aortic aneurysms. However, abdominal ultrasounds typically aren't recommended for men who have never smoked, nor women, unless an aneurysm is suspected by your doctor.

2. Computed Tomography Scan (CT scan)

Early detection of either abdominal or thoracic aortic aneurysms can be aided by a computed tomography scan (CT scan). Like an abdominal ultrasound, a CT scan is typically administered to individuals between the ages of 65 and 75 to help identify potential problems with the abdominal region. In the 66 years that has passed since the CT scan was first developed in 1951, abdominal aortic aneurysms have been diagnosed through this method of testing, using a series of X-ray images from multiple angles.

3. Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

Similar to a CT scan, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is incredibly helpful for diagnosing abdominal and thoracic aortic aneurysms. Using a technique that utilizes radiology, pictures are taken to assess the region where the aneurysm is located, as well as its severity. Many believe that CT scan technology is superior to MRI's, more so for the way that CT technology functions (it's quieter, more convenient, and takes less time to process).

4. Echocardiogram

An echocardiogram is another example of ultrasound technology, but is specifically used for studying the heart. More specifically, a transthoracic echocardiogram or transesophageal echocardiogram are used in the study of diagnosing thoracic aortic aneurysms. Through this test, ultrasound waves are used to detect the action of the heart, later producing a visual representation of the aneurysm in question.