Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm: Care Instructions

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Your Care Instructions

An abdominal aortic aneurysm is a stretched and bulging area of the aorta. The aorta is the large blood vessel that takes oxygen-rich blood from the heart to the rest of the body. This type of aneurysm is in the belly, where the aorta takes blood to the lower body. If an aneurysm gets too big, it can cause serious problems. A bulging aorta is weak and can burst, or rupture. This causes life-threatening bleeding.

If your doctor has determined that your aneurysm is small and not growing fast, it is safe to watch the aneurysm carefully and wait on surgery. If the aneurysm is larger, surgery may be the safest choice. In some cases, your doctor may be able to put in a type of graft, called a stent, to fix the aneurysm without doing major surgery.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • Take your medicines exactly as prescribed. Call your doctor or nurse call line if you think you are having a problem with your medicine. You may take a medicine to lower your blood pressure. This lowers stress on your aorta. If you have high cholesterol, you also may take a statin medicine.
  • Follow a heart-healthy diet.
    • Cut back on salt to help control your blood pressure.
    • Eat foods that are low in fat and cholesterol to help control your cholesterol level.
    • Eat lots of fruits and vegetables.
  • If your doctor recommends it, get more exercise. Walking is a good choice. Bit by bit, increase the amount you walk every day. Try for at least 2½ hours a week.
  • Talk to your doctor about when you can do more active workouts.
  • Manage your weight. Being at a healthy weight will not likely change your aortic aneurysm, but it may lower the chance of complications if you ever need surgery.
  • Do not smoke or allow others to smoke around you. Smoking can make your condition worse. If you need help quitting, talk to your doctor about stop-smoking programs and medicines. These can increase your chances of quitting for good.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You have severe pain in your belly, back, or chest.
  • You passed out (lost consciousness).
  • You have severe trouble breathing.

Call your doctor or nurse call line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You are dizzy or light-headed, or you feel like you may faint.
  • One or both feet change colour, are painful, feel cool, or burn or tingle.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse call line if you have any problems.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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