Professional basketball player Jeff Green of the Boston Celtics went in to have his annual physical and came out with unexpected news: he has an aortic aneurysm and will need to have surgery. Green, 25, will undergo surgery at the Cleveland Clinic and will miss the entire 2011-2012 abbreviated NBA basket ball season.
What is an aortic aneurysm anyway? The aorta is the largest blood vessel in the body and sometimes due to various medical conditions and risk factors (e.g. high blood pressure, smoking, high cholesterol, male gender, emphysema, genetic factors and obesity), it becomes very large and dilated and can balloon outward which is called an aneurysm. This ballooning has a high risk of bursting or rupturing, which is usually catastrophic and most of the time lethal. The key is to catch it early!!
What are the symptoms of an aortic aneurysm? In most cases, the aneurysms develop slowly over a long time and can be painless while growing to a large size. As the blood vessel grows and expands, sometimes it can grow rapidly and start to tear. When it tears, the symptoms may be the following: pain in the abdomen or back, pain that radiates into the groin, buttocks and legs, nausea, vomiting, rapid heart rate, clammy skin and finally shock.
What are the physical signs of an aortic aneurysm? A lump in the abdominal area or feeling a pulsation in the abdomen are two of the more common signs.
How can I find out if I have an aortic aneurysm? Testing is very simple, non-invasive, painless and can be performed in a physician’s office. The easiest test to have is called an ultrasound of the aorta. This is an examination of the aorta using sound waves. The test can measure the size, shape and location of the enlarged aorta. Another common test is called a CT (CAT Scan) scan of the abdomen, and uses an x-ray method to obtain cross sectional pictures of the abdomen area-also measuring the size, location and extent of the dilatation.
What is the treatment? Well, if an aneurysm is detected, preventively, a measurement will be made and an assessment will also made as to whether it is stable or enlarging (patient has symptoms). Aneurysms larger than 2 inches (5.5 cm) and those expanding quickly will require immediate surgery. Those less than 2 inches will be followed closely with frequent examinations. Several surgical methods are available including open surgical repair and using an endovascular stent. Acute rupture of an aneurysm is lethal more than 80% of the time.
Lesson: If you have any of the risk factors or conditions mentioned above, please discuss having a preventive-screening examination of the aorta (ultrasound of the aorta) with your health care provider as soon as possible. This test, which can take only ten minutes to perform, can be life saving!! Catching an aneurysm early is the key to managing this condition. Jeff Green is a very lucky man and should have a full recovery and may be able to rejoin his Boston Celtics team for the 2012-2013 NBA season. For more information , please visit the U.S. National Library of Medicine.