What is an Aortic Aneurysm?
An aortic aneurysm occurs when the large blood vessel (aorta), which supplies blood to the abdomen, pelvis and legs, becomes too large or balloons outward.
Aortic Aneurysm: Risk Factors
- While the exact cause is unknown, risk factors for developing an aortic aneurysm include:
- Genetic factors
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Male gender
This condition can develop in individuals of any age, but is most commonly seen in males over age 60 who exhibit one or multiple risk factors from the list above.
Aortic Aneurysms: Symptoms
Aneurysms typically develop slowly over a period of many years and often show no symptoms. If the aneurysm enlarges quickly, ruptures, or blood leaks along the wall of the vessel (aortic dissection), symptoms may immediately develop. Symptoms of a rupture include:
- Pain in the abdomen or back -- severe, sudden, persistent, or constant. The pain may spread to the groin, buttocks, or legs
- Clammy skin
- Nausea and vomiting
- Rapid heart rate
- Examining and Testing for an Aortic Aneurysm
First, your doctor will examine your abdomen. He will also evaluate pulses in your legs. Your doctor will look for:
- A lump (mass) in the abdomen
- Pulsating sensation in the abdomen
- Stiff or rigid abdomen
- If you have an aortic aneurysm that is not causing problems or symptoms, the following tests may detect an aortic aneurysm:
- CT scan of the abdomen (which is done to confirm the size of the aneurysm)
- Ultrasound of the abdomen ( which is done when an aneurysm is first suspected)
How is Aortic Aneurysm Treated at TriHealth?
If an aortic aneurysm is causing bleeding inside your body, you will have an aortic aneurysm repair.
However, if the aortic aneurysm is small and there are no symptoms, you and your doctor must decide whether the risk of having surgery is smaller than the risk of the bleeding if you do not have surgery. Your doctor may also suggest having an ultrasound screening every six months to monitor the size of the aneurysm to see if it is getting bigger.
Surgery is often recommended if the aneurysm is bigger than 2 inches across or is growing quickly. The goal is to perform surgery before complications or symptoms develop.