An abdominal aortic aneurysm is a weakened area of the aorta in the abdomen that bulges or expands. The greatest concern with an abdominal aneurysm is that it may rupture. Aneurysms that rupture can cause severe internal bleeding, which can be fatal. Fortunately, this condition can be successfully treated and cured when diagnosed prior to rupture.
Why Choose The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center?
The vascular surgeons at Ohio State's Wexner Medical Center have extensive experience with traditional open repair of abdominal aortic aneurysms, including repair of complex cases. They also are expert at minimally invasive repairs, and have experience in the use of all of the available stent graft technologies available to treat a wide variety of aneurysms. Ohio State's participation in national clinical trials helps direct the development of the next generation of stent grafts for the treatment of aneurysms.
What Is Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm?
The aorta is the largest artery in your body, running from your heart through the middle of your chest and abdominal area. If a section of the aorta in your abdomen becomes weakened, it may become enlarged, creating a bulge called an abdominal aortic aneurysm.
The larger the aneurysm is, the greater the risk of it rupturing. A ruptured aneurysm puts you at great risk for life-threatening internal bleeding. When an abdominal aortic aneurysm is detected before a problem develops, physicians will monitor its growth. If they determine that it is rapidly growing or large enough, they may decide to treat it surgically or with stent grafting.
Most people do not initially experience symptoms with an abdominal aortic aneurysm. However, the following symptoms can indicate that an aneurysm is present:
- Mass in the abdomen
- Pulsating in your abdomen (similar to a heartbeat)
- Sores, discoloration or pain on your feet (due to material shed from an aneurysm)
- Stiff or rigid abdomen
- Sudden, intense pain in your abdomen or lower back (may signify an aneurysm that is about to rupture; seek immediate medical care)
A ruptured aneurysm is very dangerous and requires emergency medical care. Symptoms of a ruptured aneurysm include:
- Dizziness or lightheadedness
- Drop in blood pressure
- Increased heart rate
What Causes an Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm?
While the exact cause is unclear, an abdominal aortic aneurysm may be caused by multiple factors that damage the aortic wall. Atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) is thought to play an important role. Infection, injury to the aorta and genetic disorders, including Marfan syndrome, are also factors that increase the risk of developing an abdominal aortic aneurysm.
Other risk factors that contribute to abdominal aortic aneurysm include:
Many of these risk factors can be reduced or eliminated by changing your lifestyle. Men older than 60 who have ever smoked should have a one-time screening for abdominal aortic aneurysm with a simple ultrasound test.