Abdominal aortic aneurysm

From WikiMD

What is an aneurysm?

An is a balloon-like swell in the aorta, the large artery that carries blood from the heart through the chest and torso.

Abdominal aortic aneurysm

As the name suggests, an aneurysm of the aorta in the abdomen is called abdominal aortic aneurysm. Aorta is the largest artery in the body that carries the oxygenated blood from the heart.

Types of aortic aneurysms

Depending on where in the aorta the aneurysm develops, it can be called either thoracic aortic aneurysm or abdominal aortic aneurysm.

It can be categorized as primary or secondary depending on the cause of the aneurysm.

Thoracic Aortic Aneurysms

Thoracic aortic aneurysm occurs in the the thorax. Both genders are equally likely to get thoracic aortic aneurysms. Age is also a risk factor.

Causes of thoracic aortic aneurysms

Thoracic aortic aneurysms are usually caused by similar factors as abdominal aortic aneurysm in general such as high blood pressure or sudden injury although smoking is a bigger risk for abdominal aortic aneurysm than the thoracic. The other risk factors include those with connective tissue disorders, such as Marfan syndrome and Ehlers-Danlos syndrome.

Signs and symptoms of thoracic aortic aneurysm

  • Thoracic aortic aneurysm can present as a sudden pain in the chest or upper back which is sharp.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Trouble breathing or swallowing.

Symptoms of Abdominal Aortic Aneurysms

  • The classic symptom is a man or woman clutching his stomach.
  • An abdominal aortic aneurysm occurs below the chest. Abdominal aortic aneurysms happen more often than thoracic aortic aneurysms.
  • Abdominal aortic aneurysms are more common in men and among people aged 65 years and older. Abdominal aortic aneurysms are less common among blacks compared with whites.
  • Abdominal aortic aneurysms are usually caused by atherosclerosis (hardened arteries), but infection or injury can also cause them.
  • Abdominal aortic aneurysms often don’t have any symptoms. If an individual does have symptoms, they can include
  • Throbbing or deep pain in your back or side.
  • Pain in the buttocks, groin, or legs

Mechanism of development of an aneurysm

As the heart pumps the blood with some force, there is certain level of pressure or force in the blood vessels called blood pressure which changes between systole and diastole - two phases of the heart. Due to the constant force on the arterial wall, sometimes some of the layers of the wall of the vessel can start to crack leading to a process called dissection.

Incidence of abdominal aortic aneurysm

10,597 deaths are attributed annually to abdominal aortic aneurysm where the abdominal aortic aneurysm is considered the primary cause.

Risk factors of abdominal aortic aneurysm

Abdominal aortic aneurysm affects men more than women - in fact, two thirds of those that have abdominal aortic aneurysm are actually men.


US preventive services task force recommends an ultrasound of the abdomen in men between ages of 65 and 75 who ever smoked irrespective of their symptoms or lack there of.

Prevalence of abdominal aortic aneurysm in the United States

Aortic aneurysms cause 10,597 deaths directly and a contributing cause in more than 17,215 deaths in the United States in 2009 according to the Centers for Disease Control. Abdominal aortic aneurysm affects males more than females as two-thirds of people who have an aortic dissection are male.

Treatment of abdominal aortic aneurysm

It can be treated by either surgical measures or by reversal of the causes of the aneurysm or both.


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