Abdominal aortic aneurysm

Every year, more than 15,000 people in the U.S. die when an aneurysm in the chest or abdomen ruptures or separates. An aneurysm is an abnormal widening or bulging in an artery due to weakness in the wall of the blood vessel. The aorta is a major blood vessel that runs from your heart through the center of your chest and abdomen. An abdominal aortic aneurysm occurs when the lower section of the aorta becomes enlarged. This can cause the aorta to rupture. Aneurysms are often overlooked or misdiagnosed because they often occur without symptoms. 

Symptoms are rare, but may include pain or pulsation near the navel. An ultrasound can detect if a widening exists along the aorta, and just how big it is. A potential complication of an abdominal aortic aneurysm is an aortic dissection, where the wall of the aneurysm tears. The cause of aortic dissections is unknown.

Aneurysm risk factors

Risk factors for abdominal aortic aneurysms include: 

  • History of smoking 
  • Family history of abdominal aortic aneurysm 
  • Male with high blood pressure
  • Over the age of 60 

High blood pressure Men are also more likely than women to develop abdominal aortic aneurysm. 

If you or a loved one have two or more risk factors, contact our Spectrum Health Vascular Team at 616.391.VASC for a free screening to determine your risk. 

Treatment options

Time is of the essence with an aortic aneurysm, so immediate treatment may be necessary depending on the size of your aneurysm. Our first priority is preventing the aneurysm from rupturing and keeping you alive. After immediate care, our heart and vascular specialists can recommend specific programs to help you prevent further vascular disease and adopt a more heart-healthy lifestyle. We help you through recovery, so you can resume your normal, healthy life. 

There aren't many things more serious or severe than an abdominal aortic aneurysm. If sudden dizziness, nausea, abdominal pain or loss of consciousness occurs, it could be a rupturing aneurysm. Fewer than 40 percent of patients survive a ruptured abdominal aneurysm. Call 911 immediately. 

Active monitoring
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If you have a small aneurysm, it can be regularly monitored. Small aneurysms are less prone to rupture, however they can enlarge over time, making them more likely to tear. Regular monitoring of your aneurysm reduces the chance of rupture by giving the chance for surgery before that happens.

Abdominal aortic aneurysm repair
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There are two main surgical options to repair the damage caused by an abdominal aortic aneurysm: endovascular aneurysm repair (EVAR) and open abdomen surgery. These surgeries can be used to repair or prevent the rupture of an aortic artery.

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