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Health A-Z

Medical Content Created by the Faculty of the
Harvard Medical School

Treatment

Treatment depends mostly on the size of the aneurysm. The larger the aneurysm, the more likely it is to burst (rupture).

Surgery is almost always recommended for an aneurysm that is leaking. Surgery generally is recommended for aneurysms larger than 5.5 centimeters in diameter.

An aneurysm larger than 6.5 centimeters almost always requires emergency surgery to repair the problem. This is true even if the patient has no symptoms. Emergency surgery for a ruptured aneurysm is riskier than a scheduled aneurysm repair.

Smaller aneurysms may be monitored with frequent ultrasound tests. These tests are done to see if the aneurysm is getting larger.

Surgeons have two options to repair abdominal aortic aneurysms. The traditional method is abdominal surgery. It involves:

  • Temporarily clamping the aorta

  • Repairing the blood vessel by cutting away the damaged section

  • Replacing the aneurysm with a plastic patch

A newer surgical method is called endovascular surgery. Small cuts are made in the groin. A special tube called a stent is threaded through the artery to the site of the aneurysm. The stent can stop the artery wall from expanding and weakening.

The choice of procedure depends on:

  • Location of the aneurysm

  • Appearance of the aneurysm

  • Patient's health

Endovascular repair is less invasive. This makes it a better option for older and frailer patients.

Younger and healthier patients may be better candidates for abdominal surgery.

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From Health A-Z, Harvard Health Publications. Copyright 2007 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College. All rights reserved. Written permission is required to reproduce, in any manner, in whole or in part, the material contained herein. To make a reprint request, contact Harvard Health Publications. Used with permission of StayWell.

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