Atherosclerosis is a major cause of abdominal aortic aneurysm and is the most common kind of arteriosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries. This disease process can be seen in any blood vessel in the body and is the cause of coronary artery disease, stroke, and peripheral arterial disease (PAD).
How Atherosclerosis Develops
When atherosclerosis develops in any blood vessel of the body, be it a large artery like the aorta or a small one like a coronary artery, a plaque forms inside the blood vessel. This plaque appears like a yellow, firm, shiny layer in the inside of a blood vessel.
The wall of the aorta (and all blood vessels) is a dynamic tissue made up of living cells, requiring nutrients and oxygen. Many of these nutrients seep from the inside of the blood vessel through the walls to nourish the rest of the blood vessel. When the inner lining of the vessel is covered with an atherosclerotic plaque, nutrients can no longer seep through sufficiently. The cells receive no oxygen, and some of them die. As the atherosclerosis progresses and cells continue to die, the walls become weaker and weaker.
At some point, a critical relationship is reached between the pressure experienced in the center of the blood vessel, the wall tension, and the strength of the wall itself. When this point is reached, the wall begins to dilate (grow larger) in the area of the plaque. As the diameter of the vessel grows, the wall tension increases, leading to even more dilation. The end result is an aneurysm.
Research Brings New Treatment Options for Aortic Disease
We are forging the way for innovative and improved treatment options for aortic diseases. The University of Michigan Cardiovascular Center is home to the International Registry of Aortic Dissection, and several research laboratories that are exploring the molecular etiologies of aortic diseases. Through research, we are helping to advance the best treatment options for all types of aortic diseases.
Make an Appointment
To make an appointment to discuss your need for treatment for aortic dissection or other cardiovascular treatment, call the U-M Frankel Cardiovascular Center toll-free at 888-287-1082 or email us at CVCCallCtr@med.umich.edu. Visit our Make an Appointment page for more information about what to expect when you call us.