Aortic Aneurysm: Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis & Treatments

Overview

An aortic aneurysm occurs when an abnormal bulge appears in the wall of aorta which carries oxygen-rich blood from the heart to other parts of the body.

Abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) and thoracic aortic aneurysm (TAA) are two types of aortic aneurysm. The former occurs in the part of the aorta running through the abdomen and the latter occurs in the part of the aorta running through the chest.

Aortic aneurysms were the primary cause of 9,863 deaths in 2014 and a contributing cause in more than 17,215 deaths in the United States in 2009.

Causes

The exact cause of aortic aneurysms is unknown. But the following factors may contribute it.

  • A family history of aneurysm
  • An injury or trauma
  • Bacterial or fungal infection in the aorta
  • Aortic disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Hardening of the arteries
  • Using tobacco

Symptoms

Different types of aortic aneurysm have different signs and symptoms. More specifically, symptoms of thoracic aortic aneurysm can include:

  • Shortness of breath.
  • Sharp, sudden pain in the chest or upper back.
  • Trouble breathing or swallowing.

Abdominal aortic aneurysms are often asymptomatic, because they often grow slowly and many start small and stay small. But if an abdominal aortic aneurysm enlarges, the patient may experience:

  • Pain in the buttocks, groin, or legs.
  • A pulsating feeling near the navel.
  • Deep, constant pain in abdomen or on the side of abdomen.
  • Back pain.

If an aortic aneurysm has ruptured, signs and symptoms may include:

  • Clammy skin
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Shock
  • Low blood pressure
  • Sweatiness
  • Sudden, intense and persistent abdominal or back pain, which can be described as a tearing sensation
  • Pain that radiates to your back or legs

Diagnosis

Usually, your doctor can use an ultrasound test, computerized tomography (CT) scan or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to diagnose an aneurysm.

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends that men aged 65–75 years who have ever smoked should get an ultrasound screening for abdominal aortic aneurysms, even if they have no symptoms.

Treatment

The treatments of aortic aneurysm depend on the condition and size of it and how fast it’s growing.

Call 911 if someone has a ruptured aneurysm which is a very dangerous medical emergency.

For an unruptured aneurysm, regular checkups are asked to monitor any changes to the aneurysm.

Surgery

In the following situations, surgery is generally recommended.

  • The aneurysm is about 1.9 to 2.2 inches (about 5 to 5.5 centimeters) or larger.
  • The aneurysm is growing quickly.
  • The patients are experiencing symptoms such as stomach pain or having a leaking, tender or painful aneurysm.

There are two surgery options:

Open abdominal surgery (for abdominal aortic aneurysm) and open-chest surgery (for thoracic aortic aneurysms ) involves removing the damaged section of the aorta and replacing it with a synthetic tube (graft), which is sewn into place.

Endovascular surgery: The graft in this surgery reinforces the weakened section of the aorta to prevent rupture of the aneurysm.

Endovascular surgery is a less invasive procedure and recovery time is generally much shorter with this procedure than with open abdominal surgery.

Discuss with your doctor for the most appropriate surgery for you.

Medications

Medications are usually used to lower blood pressure and reduce cholesterol levels to lower the risk of complications from your aneurysm. For example:

Beta blockers including metoprolol (Lopressor, Toprol-XL), atenolol (Tenormin) and bisoprolol (Zebeta) lower your blood pressure by slowing your heart rate.

Beta Blockers: Uses & Side Effects

Angiotensin II receptor blockers including losartan (Cozaar), valsartan (Diovan) and olmesartan (Benicar) are often recommended for people who have Marfan syndrome, even if they don’t have high blood pressure.

Angiotensin II receptor blockers: Uses & Side Effects

Statins including atorvastatin (Lipitor), lovastatin (Altoprev), simvastatin (Zocor) and others can help lower your cholesterol, which can help reduce blockages in your arteries and reduce your risk of aneurysm complications.

Statins: Uses & Side Effects

 

Keyword: Aortic Aneurysm.

* The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.