An abdominal aortic aneurysm is a bulge or enlarged, weakened area of the bottom area of the aorta. This can be life threatening, because the aorta is the largest blood vessel in your body. It is roughly the diameter of a garden hose, running from your heart down to the abdomen, where it splits into two main sections. Because it is so long, the aorta is identified by the compartment where it is located. In other words, the thoracic aorta is in the chest and the abdominal aorta is in the abdomen, even though it is really one structure that passes through different areas.
Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm
The exact location and size of an abdominal aortic aneurysm can vary, as can the rate at which it develops. In some cases, an abdominal aortic aneurysm is large enough to require immediate surgery. In others, the doctor may simply monitor it to determine if surgery will be required. Aneurysms can happen anywhere along the aorta, and there is no clear consensus as to why aortic aneurysms are more common in the abdomen than other areas.
Many abdominal aortic aneurysms are silent, meaning that they present no symptoms. Although there is always a risk of rupture, most aneurysms never do so. They may begin as small areas and may or may not expand over time, depending on the exact nature of the aneurysm. Predicting whether or not an aneurysm will rupture and become life-threatening can be very difficult.
Some patients do present with symptoms such as a pulsating sensation near the belly button area, back pain, pain in the abdomen, or pain on the side of the abdomen. The pain from an abdominal aortic aneurysm can be quite severe, driving people to seek medical attention that may save their lives. It should be noted that abdominal aortic aneurysms can also release blood clots that can block blood flow to organs and limbs, which can be life threatening in and of itself.
Symptoms of an abdominal aortic aneurysm may also include:
- Rapid onset of severe pain in the back or abdomen (some people report a tearing sensation)
- Radiating pain that may move to the back and or legs
- Clamminess and sweating
- Nausea or dizziness
- Rapid pulse
- Low blood pressure
Certain risk factors, such as smoking, being male, or being overweight can increase your odds of developing an abdominal aortic aneurysm. A family history of the disorder can also be a factor. Other risks include hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis), high blood pressure, blood vessel disease, trauma, and infections of the aorta.
If you or a loved one has questions about abdominal aortic aneurysms, please do not hesitate to contact us at 301-545-1811. At Rockville Concierge Doctors, our patients are priority one.