The aorta is one the
largest arteries that helps deliver blood to the body.
When an area of the aorta becomes weakened due to
infections, congenital disorders, high blood pressure or
atherosclerosis (build up of plaque and destruction of
the artery walls), the artery wall stretches outward
like a balloon. This balloon is called an abdominal
aortic aneurysm (AAA) when it develops just below the
kidneys. Though it can develop at any time and affect
anyone, it primarily affects men between 40 and 70 years
of age. Most of the time there are no symptoms with AAA;
it is usually discovered during a routine physical exam.
• Pulsating mass in the
• Firm abdomen that is tender when touched.
• Pain (persistent, severe, and radiating to the lower
back, legs or groin).
• Nausea and vomiting.
• Sensation that something is "tearing" in abdomen.
• Rapid heartbeat, profuse sweating, and dizziness upon
• Pale skin, dry mouth, & extreme thirst.
• General body weakness.
• Confusion, difficulty concentrating, and fainting.
DOCTOR CAN DO:
• Perform a physical exam
of the abdomen and order laboratory blood work.
• Order x-rays, an ultrasound, CT scan, and/or MRI of
• Recommend "watchful waiting". Your doctor may try to
lower your blood pressure and monitor the size if the
aneurysm is small and produces no symptoms.
• Recommend surgery if the aneurysm is large, produces
symptoms, and is at risk of dissecting or rupturing.
• See your doctor
regularly to check your blood pressure and aneurysm
• Take your blood pressure medicine as directed by your
WHAT YOU CAN EXPECT: Possible complications if the
aneurysm is not monitored include:
• Ruptured or dissecting aortic aneurysm.
• Internal bleeding that will lead to shock.
• Kidney failure due to lack of blood circulation.
• Heart attack, stroke, or even death.
SEEK IMMEDIATE MEDICAL
ASSISTANCE if you develop severe abdominal or
back pain, dizziness, profuse sweating, chest pain,
shortness of breath, or a "tearing" sensation in the
Remember that a ruptured aneurysm is a life-threatening