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AAA – A Silent Killer

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Dear Dr. Levister: My partner of 22 years died recently of complications from an abdominal aortic aneurysm. He smoked cigarettes but was generally healthy. Can smoking cause this disease?

Dear A.S.: Yes, in fact this silent killer is the leading cause of death in older men. Smokers and those with a family history need to be checked for abdominal aortic aneurysms, known as AAA. AAAs are weak spots in the artery wall, that appear in the belly and can develop from various causes, including genetic issues, smoking, hardening of the arteries and infectious diseases.

Though doctors aren’t sure why, abdominal aortic aneurysms are four times more common in men than in women. While AAAs can lead to death, screenings are available to detect the disease before it’s too late.

Until recently treatment required surgeons to replace the weakened artery through a complicated procedure that resulted in a week’s hospitalization and six to eight weeks’ recovery.

Now a new technology called the Cook Zenith endovascular aortic repair (EVAR) procedure makes the treatment much simpler and less invasive.

The surgery is often done under a local anesthetic, recovery takes about five days.

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