Abdominal Aortic Aneurysms

Aneurysms are expansions of blood vessels anywhere in the body. To be called an aneurysm, the enlargement generally is twice the size of the original blood vessel. The specific causes of aneurysms are unknown. Some possible causes include deterioration of the artery or vein wall, tension changes in the wall structure such as increased pressure, and enzyme changes. Aneurysms are more common in men age 55 and over. They are the 13th leading cause of death in the U.S. overall and 3rd among men age 60-70.

The abdominal aorta is the most common site for aneurysms. Ninety-five percent of aneurysms occur in the abdominal aorta.

Death from untreated aneurysms is most common because of rupture (bleeding), which causes a patient to go into shock. If the individual is elderly and has heart disease and other circulation problems, they may be at risk for other complications.

Symptoms and Diagnosis:
The patient, family member or physician may feel a pulse in the abdomen or at the sites such as the groin or behind the knee. Abdominal aneurysms become harder to feel as an individual becomes more obese or muscular. In the process of physical examination, ultrasound testing, MRA, MRI or CT scan, an unsuspected aneurysm may be identified.
Some patients may complain of symptoms such as:

  • early fullness after eating
  • feeling full without eating
  • a “second heart” or pulse in their abdomen
  • pain in the abdomen or lower back