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Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm (AAA)

An Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm, or AAA, is a weakening and bulging of the aorta, the largest artery in the body and the body’s main supplier of blood. If the aneurysm grows to a large size, it can spontaneously rupture, leading to profuse bleeding, shock, and even death. AAAs usually grow slowly, and often have no symptoms. Some never rupture. Those that do, however, are usually life-threatening.

The exact cause of an aneurysm is unknown. It occurs due to weakness in the wall of the artery. Factors that can increase your risk of having this problem include:

  • Smoking (past or present)
  • Obesity
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Male gender (especially over age 60)

Signs & Symptoms

Aneurysms can develop slowly over many years, often with no symptoms. Symptoms may come on quickly if the aneurysm expands rapidly, tears open or leaks blood within the wall of the vessel (aortic dissection).

Symptoms of rupture include:

  • Pain in the abdomen or back
    • The pain may be severe, sudden, persistent, or constant. It may spread to the groin, buttocks, or legs.
  • Passing out
  • Clammy skin
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Shock

Diagnosis

With almost no warning signs, an AAA is often difficult to detect, but preventive screening exams could literally mean the difference between life and death for some people. A routine five-minute ultrasound can indicate the presence of an AAA, making this one of the most preventable, but neglected, conditions to be diagnosed and treated.

Your physician at Deborah Heart and Lung Center will examine your abdomen and feel the pulses in your legs. The provider may find:

  • A lump (mass) in the abdomen
  • Pulsating sensation in the abdomen
  • Stiff or rigid abdomen

Your Deborah physician may find this problem by doing the following tests:

  • Abdominal ultrasound
  • CT scan of the abdomen

You may have an abdominal aortic aneurysm that is not causing any symptoms. Your provider may order an ultrasound of the abdomen to screen for an aneurysm if you meet the following criteria:

  • Most men between the ages of 65 to 75, who have smoked during their life should have this test
  • Some men between the ages of 65 to 75, who have never smoked during their life may need this test one time

Find a Provider

Expertise in Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm (AAA)

Kane Chang, MD

Endovascular, Vascular Surgery

Richard Kovach, MD

Endovascular, Interventional Cardiology