I have often pointed out the association between certain types of lung disease and other disease. COPD and coronary artery disease is a good example of one disease being highly associated with another. I was somewhat taken aback by a recent report linking asthma with the rupture of abdominal aortic aneurysms (AAA). An aneurysm is an enlargement causing weakening of the wall of a major blood vessel, in this case the aorta, which is the main artery coming from the heart and supplying all the blood to the body.

Weakening of the wall of this blood vessel results in enlargement and in some cases rupture. In the recent research on this topic it is suggested that an inflammatory pathway, common to both asthma and the development of abdominal aortic aneurysms, is to blame. In a study of nearly 16.000 patients (81% male) diagnosed with AAA, studied over a 16 year period, 4.500 had a ruptured AAA. This is a serious medical and surgical event with high mortality.

These findings have clear implications for older patients, especially men, with asthma. These patients should be checked to see if they have signs associated with an abdominal aortic aneurysm. Surgery, often on an emergency basis, was the usual treatment in the past. If an AAA is discovered early, the correction and treatment can often be done with a minimally invasive technique where a large stent-like device is inserted through an artery in the leg and placed in the aneurysm.