Overview

An abdominal aortic aneurysm is an enlarged area in the lower part of the major vessel that supplies blood to the body (aorta). The aorta runs from the heart through the center of the chest and abdomen.The aorta is the largest blood vessel in the body, so a ruptured abdominal aortic aneurysm can cause life-threatening bleeding.

Depending on the size of the aneurysm and how fast it’s growing, treatment varies from watchful waiting to emergency surgery.

Symptoms

Abdominal aortic aneurysms often grow slowly without noticeable symptoms, making them difficult to detect. Some aneurysms never rupture. Many start small and stay small. Others grow larger over time, sometimes quickly.

If you have an enlarging abdominal aortic aneurysm, you might notice:

When to see a doctor

If you have pain, especially if pain is sudden and severe, seek immediate medical help.

Causes

Aneurysms can develop anywhere along the aorta, but most aortic aneurysms occur in the part of the aorta that’s in the belly area (abdomen). Several things can play a role in the development of an abdominal aortic aneurysm, including:

Risk factors

Abdominal aortic aneurysm risk factors include:

If you’re at risk of an aortic aneurysm, your doctor might recommend other measures, such as medications to lower your blood pressure and relieve stress on weakened arteries.

Complications

Tears in one or more of the layers of the wall of the aorta (aortic dissection) or a ruptured aneurysm are the main complications. A rupture can cause life-threatening internal bleeding. In general, the larger the aneurysm and the faster it grows, the greater the risk of rupture.Signs and symptoms that an aortic aneurysm has ruptured can include:

Aortic aneurysms also increase the risk of developing blood clots in the area. If a blood clot breaks loose from the inside wall of an aneurysm and blocks a blood vessel elsewhere in your body, it can cause pain or block blood flow to the legs, toes, kidneys or abdominal organs.

Prevention

To prevent an aortic aneurysm or keep an aortic aneurysm from worsening, do the following: