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Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm

An abdominal aortic aneurysm occurs when the large blood vessel that supplies blood to the abdomen, pelvis and legs becomes abnormally large or balloons outward. The exact cause is unknown, but risk factors for developing an aortic aneurysm include:

  • Smoking
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Male gender
  • Emphysema
  • Genetic factors
  • Obesity

An abdominal aortic aneurysm can develop in anyone but is most often seen in males over 60 who have one or more risk factors. The larger the aneurysm, the more likely it is to rupture.

Learn more about Abdominal Aortic Anuerysms

Symptoms:

Aneurysms develop slowly over many years and often present no symptoms. If an aneurysm expands rapidly or tears open, or if blood leaks along the wall of the vessel, symptoms may develop suddenly. These may include:

  • Pain in the abdomen or back — severe, sudden, persistent or constant. The pain may radiate to the groin, buttocks or legs.
  • Clammy skin
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Shock

Anyone with pain in the belly or back that does not go away or is very severe should go to the emergency room or call 911.

Treatment:

Internal bleeding caused by an aortic aneurysm will require open abdominal aortic aneurysm repair. If the aneurysm is small and there are no symptoms, the patient and his or her doctor must decide whether the risk of having surgery is smaller than the risk of bleeding if surgery is not done. A surgeon may recommend checking the size of the aneurysm with a yearly ultrasound test to see if the aneurysm is enlarging.

Surgery is usually recommended for patients who have aneurysms larger than 2 inches, or 5.5 cm, in diameter or are growing quickly. The goal is to perform surgery before complications or symptoms develop. There are two approaches to surgery:

  • In a traditional (open) repair, a large cut is made in the abdomen. The abnormal vessel is replaced with a graft using man-made material.
  • Endovascular stent grafting can be done without making a large cut in the abdomen, so recovery time may be faster. Endovascular repair is rarely done to repair a leaking or bleeding aneurysm.

Texas Health is committed to providing quality care to heart and vascular patients throughout North Texas and beyond. While various technologies and services are discussed here, not all of our hospitals offer every treatment and diagnostic technology highlighted. Call 1-877-THR-WELL to learn more about heart and vascular services at a Texas Health hospital near you.