Time bomb in the belly: ten-minute ultrasound examination can save lives
In the case of an abdominal aortic aneurysm, the abdominal artery expands considerably until it threatens to tear. In such cases there is a danger to life. Older men in particular carry this ticking time bomb. The danger can be identified and averted with a ten-minute ultrasound examination.
Pathological enlargement of the abdominal artery
Germans' life expectancy is increasing and increasing. This also increases the number of people who can develop problems with the main artery. According to doctors, the so-called abdominal aortic aneurysm is the most common and most dangerous complication. In most cases, this pathological dilation of the abdominal artery (aorta) is caused by vascular calcification (arteriosclerosis). The main vessel in the abdomen expands until it threatens to tear. When this happens, a lot of blood flows into the abdomen within seconds and the victim often dies before being in the hospital. The problem can be identified at an early stage by an ultrasound examination and, if necessary, eliminated.
Any doctor with an ultrasound machine can perform the examination
"So far, aneurysms have mostly been discovered accidentally because they hardly cause any symptoms at first," explains Professor Dr. Friedhelm Beyersdorf, Medical Director of the Clinic for Cardiovascular Surgery of the University Heart Center (UHZ) Freiburg Bad Krozingen in a message.
This could change now. Because since the beginning of 2018, health insurance companies have been paying for a check-up for men over 65.
According to the information, four to eight percent of all men at this age have dangerous vasodilation.
During the examination, the doctor measures the diameter of the abdominal aorta with an ultrasound device. If this is less than 2.5 centimeters, the finding is considered unremarkable.
If the aorta is more than three centimeters thick, the patient must be checked with ultrasound every six months.
From five centimeters, doctors speak of an aneurysm requiring treatment. Any doctor can carry out the screening with an ultrasound device.
Affected people almost never have any complaints - until it is almost too late
Most of those affected have no complaints. "That is why it is so important that all men perceive the screening," says Professor Beyersdorf.
Only when the aorta is about to tear, do those affected perceive pain, usually in the back area. Then immediate surgery is necessary.
Four out of five patients receive minimally invasive care
Hundreds of patients are treated annually at the Freiburg clinic for an impending aortic tear.
“The abdominal aorta can be treated openly or minimally invasively. Which type of surgery is chosen always depends on the patient and his illness, ”explains Professor Beyersdorf.
In a minimally invasive procedure, a wire mesh, a so-called stent graft, is advanced over the groin vessels under X-ray control to the site of the sac and expanded there. One also speaks of endovascular procedure.
Around 80 percent of all patients with abdominal aortic aneurysm are treated minimally invasively at the university heart center. In acute and particularly complex cases, open surgery is carried out.
After the procedure is before the aftercare: Aortic pass helps
"We firmly believe that aftercare is just as important as preoperative preparation and treatment," says Professor Beyersdorf.
For this reason, all patients who were treated at the UHZ for an aortic aneurysm are subsequently examined in the aortic outpatient clinic.
An aortic passport for the patient contains information about the disease, the procedures that have taken place, an individual sketch of the main artery, the date of the next check and the most important contacts in the UHZ.
In this way it can be ensured that the time bomb in the stomach does not threaten to tick again without being noticed. (ad)