Background: Abdominal aortic aneurysm can be treated using 3 different methods: open repair, endovascular aortic repair, or conservative treatment with regular monitoring and postponement of surgery until the aneurysm is greater than 55 mm. Conservative treatment entails living with the knowledge that an aneurysm is present while undergoing annual outpatient follow-up.
Aim: This study describes patients' experiences of living with the knowledge that they have an aneurysm for which they are receiving conservative treatment.
Methods: A qualitative, phenomenological-hermeneutic approach was used. Interviews were conducted between April 2007 and December 2008 with 10 patients diagnosed with abdominal aortic aneurysm less than 55 mm. The interpretation and analysis process involved 3 steps: (1) naive reading and understanding, (2) structural analysis, and (3) comprehensive understanding.
Findings: Five themes based on subthemes were identified: (a) sudden knowledge of a hitherto undetected condition, (b) putting your life in someone else's hands, (c) waiting in limbo-feeling secure despite concerns, (d) life is at stake, and (e) feeling obliged not to cause worry.
Conclusion: Living with a diagnosis of abdominal aortic aneurysm implies awareness of having an invisible, life-threatening disease and a sense of being subjected to suffering. We found that patients searched for answers about how to influence the growth of the aneurysm in their everyday life. They avoided thoughts about the aneurysm and struggled to live life as usual.