What is an Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm?

An abdominal aortic aneurysm is an enlarged lower part of the aorta. The major blood vessel in your body, the aorta delivers blood all over your body. A ruptured abdominal aortic aneurysm can cause life-threatening bleeding because the aorta is the body's main transport system for blood.

Risk factors for abdominal aortic aneurysms include:

  • Male
  • 65 or older
  • Family history of cardiovascular diseases
  • Smoking and other tobacco use
  • Atherosclerosis

Because aortic aneurysms take a long time to develop, symptoms are rarely felt until they become serious health concerns. People with enlarged abdominal aortic aneurysms or a burst aneurysm may experience:

  • Pulsating pain in the abdomen
  • Pulsating feeling in the navel
  • Severe back pain
  • Blood clots
  • Low blood pressure
  • Shortness of breath

Due to its lack of definitive symptoms, many aortic aneurysms are found during an examination of a different condition. For example, an aortic aneurysm may be found during a chest X-ray or an ultrasound of the heart. If your doctor suspects you may have an aortic aneurysm forming, specific diagnostic tests can be performed for confirmation.

  • Abdominal ultrasound
  • CT scan
  • MRI

In general, small aneurysms do not require surgery but do require periodic ultrasounds and screenings. If you experience any symptoms related to an enlarged abdominal aortic aneurysm, seek medical attention immediately.

Large aneurysms require surgical treatment, either in an open-abdominal procedure (where the damaged section of the aorta is removed and replaced with a graft) or an endovascular surgery (which repairs the aneurysm with a graft to reinforce the weakened section of the aorta to prevent rupture).

Why Choose Methodist Healthcare?

At Methodist Healthcare, our San Antonio-based vascular surgeons and specialists have years of experience treating vascular conditions and performing life-saving surgery.