Have you been told you have an aortic aneurysm? If so, chances are it was discovered by accident during a routine chest X-ray, abdominal ultrasound, or other diagnostic imaging test. That’s because most people with an aortic aneurysm experience no symptoms until the aneurysm ruptures. A ruptured aortic aneurysm is a serious, life-threatening medical emergency.
If you experience symptoms associated with an aortic aneurysm – such as pain in the abdomen, chest, groin, or low back area – it could indicate the aneurysm is about to rupture.
What Is an Aortic Aneurysm?
The aorta is the largest blood vessel in the body, with the approximate circumference of a garden hose. It runs from the heart, through the chest, down into the abdomen. It is responsible for providing oxygen-rich blood to such vital organs as the heart, brain, kidneys, liver, and intestines.
An aneurysm develops when the walls of an artery become weak, thin, and begins to bulge, swell, and balloon out of its normal shape. This makes the blood vessel more likely to burst.
Aneurysms can develop anywhere along the length of the aorta, but most commonly occur in the section called the abdominal aorta, which runs through the abdomen. This type of aneurysm is sometimes referred to as an abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA, or “triple A”).
Causes & Complications
Aortic aneurysms are usually caused by atherosclerosis, a buildup of plaque (fatty deposits) in the arteries. Plaque narrows the arteries and makes it harder for blood to flow through them. Over time, this can cause a section of the artery wall to become thin and swell outward like a balloon – creating an aneurysm.
Complications of an aortic aneurysm include:
- Rupture. An aortic aneurysm can continue to grow over time, or it may stop growing on its own and never cause any symptoms. However, if the aneurysm continues to grow, it can become quite large and is more likely to rupture. Should the aneurysm burst, it could lead to dangerous internal bleeding that would require immediate medical attention.
- Blood Clots. Aortic aneurysms also increase your risk of developing certain complications, such as blood clots. This occurs because blood tends to pool in the distended or ballooning area of an aneurysm. Blood clots sometime form in this area. If a blood clot breaks loose from an abdominal aortic aneurysm, it can block blood flow to the legs, kidneys, or other abdominal organs.
When to See a Doctor
If you are diagnosed with an aortic aneurysm, you will typically receive lifelong follow-up care to keep track of your aneurysm’s size and growth rate, as well as other factors that could increase your risk of complications, such as smoking or high blood pressure.
You should also be aware of the signs and symptoms of a possible abdominal aortic aneurysm rupture so you can seek immediate medical attention. These signs and symptoms include:
- Pulsing sensation near the belly button
- Pain in the abdomen, back, or chest
- Sudden shortness of breath
- Heart palpitations
- Dizziness or lightheadedness
- Nausea or vomiting
If you experience any of these symptoms, it’s important to see a doctor right away as they could be indicative of a serious problem.
Aortic aneurysms are usually diagnosed with imaging tests such as an ultrasound, CT scan, or MRI. Once diagnosed, your treatment will depend on the size and location of the aneurysm, as well as your overall health. Some people with aortic aneurysms require no treatment at all, while others may need medication or surgery to reduce their risk of complications. An endovascular aortic aneurysm repair is often a preferred same-day procedure for patients with an aortic aneurysm.
AAA Evaluation & Treatment in South Florida
Do you suspect or have you been told you have an aortic aneurysm? Even if you have no symptoms, it’s important to get a thorough evaluation by a vascular specialist, like the interventional radiology pros at Florida Endovascular and Interventional in South Florida. Call us at (786) 534-2555 or request an appointment now. We have four convenient locations from which to serve you: in Miami Lakes, Plantation, Coconut Creek, and Aventura.