Diagnosing Abdominal Aortic Aneurysms Early Can be Life-Saving

Unless you’ve been diagnosed with an abdominal aortic aneurysm, you’ve probably never heard of this life-threatening condition. As cardiovascular conditions go, it’s a little on the low side when it comes to overall diagnoses, clocking in at 200,000 a year. When you compare that figure with the 28.2 million diagnosed with heart disease and 350,000 killed from sudden cardiac arrest, it’s easy to see how abdominal aortic aneurysms gets overlooked.

Despite its relatively low level of recognition and diagnoses, an abdominal aortic aneurysm is still highly dangerous. Of the 200,000 that are diagnosed, 15,000 will die from a ruptured aneurysm. This makes abdominal aortic aneurysm the third leading cause of sudden death in men over age 60. 

Treating an abdominal aortic aneurysm is all about early detection. When you find this condition early, there are ways to manage or correct the aneurysm and keep you healthy for years to come.

If you have a history of vascular issues or believe that you may be at risk for an abdominal aortic aneurysm, come see us at Tinsley Surgical. Ellis A. Tinsley, MD, FACS and the rest of our team will work with you to make sure you get the care you need and deserve. Dr. Tinsley is double board-certified in both general and vascular surgery; he’s also a fellow of the American College of Surgeons and the Society of Vascular Surgery. He’ll make sure you receive safe, comfortable, and cutting-edge care.

What is an abdominal aortic aneurysm?

Understanding an abdominal aortic aneurysm starts with knowing the role of the aorta and how an aneurysm impacts its function. The aorta is the main artery in your body, meaning that it carries oxygenated blood from the heart to the rest of the body. 

An aneurysm occurs when a part of the aorta begins to balloon or bulge; this can be a slow process that occurs over decades, or a fairly fast progression that only takes months. Since the aorta is not designed to become larger in one area, the walls of the artery become weaker as they stretch. Eventually, the walls of the aorta become so weak that the aneurysm ruptures. A rupture is both painful and fatal for the majority of patients as it can cause massive internal bleeding and hemorrhage. 

A non-ruptured aneurysm can also lead to thrombosis, which can cause an embolism. 

Causes and Symptoms

Demographically, the most at-risk group are white men over 65 with a history of smoking. Overall, smokers are more likely to develop abdominal aortic aneurysm than non-smokers. Other potential causes include:

Abdominal aortic aneurysms often develop without pain and have received the silent-killer tag from the medical community. Still, some symptoms may be present, including:

If you fit the profile for developing an aneurysm, come see us at Tinsley Surgical. Dr. Tinsley will run a few tests, such as an abdominal ultrasound, CT scan or MRI, to give you a positive or negative diagnosis.


When it comes to treating an abdominal aortic aneurysm, management is the name of the game. If the aneurysm is small and is growing at a slow pace, you’ll just need to schedule routine check-ups with us at Tinsley Surgical.

If the aneurysm is large, expanding quickly, leaking or causing pain, you will likely need surgery. During open abdominal surgery, Dr. Tinsley will remove the affected area of the aorta and replace it with an artificial tube.

If the aneurysm doesn’t require a full replacement, the team at Tinsley Surgical may be able to perform a less-invasive endovascular aneurysm repair. This repair, which causes less tissue damage and promotes quicker recovery, places a covered stent mechanism that helps reinforce the walls of the aorta.

Early detection and treatment of an abdominal aortic aneurysm can be life-saving. Tinsley Surgical is here to help. Call or message our Wilmington office today. 

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Dr. Tinsley has been a Fellow in the American College of Surgeons (FACS), 1993 to present. He is also a Past President of the North Carolina Chapter of the American College of Surgeons.


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