Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm

What is an Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm?

An Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm occurs when oxygenated blood passes through the biggest artery (the aorta) from the left ventricle of the heart to the rest of the body, excluding the lungs. The abdomen is where 75% of aortic bulges (aneurysms) occur.

Although they can strike at any age, they most often occur in males between the ages of 50 and 80. They are usually caused by high blood pressure in the older population, and smoking greatly increases the risk. Approximately 20% rupture and result in severe internal bleeding and shock. The kidneys may be compromised by a lack of blood to the region. The mortality rate ranges between 20 and 50%, and without surgery it is always fatal.

What are the Symptoms of an Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm?

Those with an abdominal aortic aneurysm may notice a throbbing pulsing deep back pain, but most do not have initial symptoms. Pain is major late-stage symptom. Abdominal aortic aneurysms are usually found by chance during unrelated imaging procedures.

  • The pain will not stop if the aneurysm is leaking.
  • A whooshing sound may be detected with a stethoscope during an abdominal examination.

A fully ruptured aneurysm causes agonizing pain in the lower abdominal region and back. The area of the aneurysm will be very tender when pressed.

How is an Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm Treated?

Most abdominal aneurysms that rupture exceed a two-inch width. Before surgical repair becomes necessary, patients are often prescribed blood pressure lowering drugs, and smokers are advised to quit. Imaging to monitor the aneurysm will take place every three to six months at the doctor’s discretion.

If the abdominal aortic aneurysm widens beyond a critical point, immediate surgery will be required if the patient is healthy enough to withstand the procedure.

One of two approaches will likely be taken:

  1. Surgical repair may include a synthetic graft under general anesthetic.
  2. The most recent method of repair is endovascular stent grafting under regional anesthetic.
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Last Reviewed:
September 09, 2016
Last Updated:
August 30, 2017