Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm – Causes, Symptoms, And Treatment
What is an abdominal aortic aneurysm?
Abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) refers to ballooning or enlargement of an area of the aorta within the abdomen. The aorta is the main blood vessel that runs from the heart down through the chest and abdomen. It supplies blood to the abdomen, pelvis, and legs. This condition usually causes no symptoms unless it ruptures. An abdominal aortic aneurysm is a treatable condition.
What causes abdominal aortic aneurysm?
The exact cause of an aortic aneurysm is not known. It is believed it occurs due to weakness in the wall of the artery. Several other factors may play a role.
The following are some factors that may cause abdominal aortic aneurysm:
- High blood pressure
- Atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries)
- Blood vessel diseases in the aorta
- Infection of the aorta
- Genetic factors
What are the symptoms of an abdominal aortic aneurysm?
Aneurysms can develop slowly over many years, often without symptoms. Symptoms may come on quickly if an aneurysm expands rapidly, ruptures or leaks blood within the wall of the vessel.
As an aortic aneurysm expands, the following symptoms may appear:
- Pulsating sensation near the navel
- Consistent pain in the abdomen
- Flank pain
- Back pain
The following are the symptoms of rupture:
- Pain in the abdomen or back. The pain may be severe, sudden, persistent, or constant. It may spread to the groin, buttocks, or legs.
- Passing out.
- Clammy skin.
- Nausea and vomiting.
- Rapid heart rate.
How is abdominal aortic aneurysm diagnosed?
Your doctor will examine your abdomen and feel the pulses in your legs.
The doctor may find the following:
- A lump (mass) in the abdomen
- Pulsating sensation in the abdomen
- Stiff or rigid abdomen
Your doctor may do one or more of the following tests to diagnose AAA:
- Ultrasound of the abdomen when an abdominal aneurysm is first suspected
- CT scan of the abdomen to confirm the size of an aneurysm
- CTA (computed tomographic angiogram) to help with surgical planning
How is abdominal aortic aneurysm treated?
Treatment depends on the size of an aortic aneurysm and how fast it is growing. The goal of treatment will be to prevent your aneurysm from rupturing or tearing open. Usually, treatment includes medical monitoring or surgery. If you have bleeding inside your body from an aortic aneurysm, you will need surgery right away.
Normally, surgery is done if an aneurysm is bigger than 2 inches (5 centimeters) across or growing quickly. The goal is to do surgery before complications develop.
The following are the surgical options:
- Open repair: A large cut is made in your abdomen. The abnormal vessel is replaced with a graft made of man-made material.
- Endovascular stent grafting: This procedure can be done without making a large cut in your abdomen, so you may recover more quickly. This may be a safer approach if you have certain other medical problems or are an older adult. Endovascular repair can sometimes be done for a leaking or a bleeding aneurysm.
This feature is for informational purposes only and is not intended to substitute the expert guidance of a doctor. We advise seeing a doctor if you have any health concerns.