Understanding Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm

Understanding Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm

You may have been told that you have an aneurysm. This is when a weakened part of a blood vessel expands like a balloon. An aneurysm in the main blood vessel in your stomach area is called an abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA).

What Is AAA?

The aorta is the large artery that carries blood from the heart to the rest of the body. With AAA, part of the aorta weakens and expands. If an aneurysm gets large enough, it may burst. This can be very serious, even fatal.

How Is an Aneurysm Detected?

AAA usually causes no symptoms. It is often found when tests (such as an x-ray, MRI, or CT scan) are done for an unrelated problem. Or your doctor may find it while feeling your stomach during a routine exam.

Who Develops AAA?

These things increase your chances of having AAA:

  • AAA runs in your family

  • Your age—AAA is more likely as you get older

  • Men are more likely than women to have AAA

  • Smoking

  • High blood pressure

  • High cholesterol level (a buildup of fat and other materials in the blood)

  • Inury (such as a car accident)

Abdominal aorta and kidneys showing aneurysm of aorta just below kidneys. Another aneurysm is in right iliac artery. Dotted line shows normal width of aorta and iliac artery.
An aneurysm occurs when a weakened part of the aorta wall stretches and expands.

What Can Be Done?

Surgery can be done to remove an aneurysm. Your doctor will weigh the chances that the aneurysm will burst against the risks of surgery. Because a small aneurysm is not likely to burst, it may be watched for a while. When it reaches a certain size, you may have surgery to replace that section of your aorta.