Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm

An abdominal aortic aneurysm represents an enlargement of the abdominal aorta – the main artery running through the abdomen.

In the elderly population, abdominal aortic aneurysms are not uncommon and are rarely symptomatic. Abdominal aneurysms are most common among people over age 60, and are more prevalent among men and those who smoke.

Abdomimal Aortic Aneurysm Symptoms

While most abdominal aortic aneurysms are relatively small and asymptomatic, if the enlarged blood vessel begins to leak blood, or if it ruptures, it can cause severe, unremitting abdominal and lower back pain and represents a medical emergency.

Sudden onset of severe lower back pain is a prominent symptom of an abdominal aneurysm that has ruptured.

Typical symptoms can include:

  • Acute, sudden onset of back pain
  • Low back pain that is severe. Some patients describe being doubled over in pain.
  • Severe abdominal pain
  • Pain that is continuous and does not feel better with rest
  • Pain that may radiate into the groin or leg
  • Pain may be accompanied by symptoms of internal bleeding, such as nausea, vomiting, rapid heart rate, cool or clammy skin, sweating, and/or shortness of breath.
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Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm Emergency Treatment

If the aneurysm ruptures and the blood loss is large enough, it will lead to hypotension (low blood pressure), unconsciousness and possibly death.

Patients with any of the above symptoms need to seek medical care immediately.

  • For a ruptured aortic aneurysm, emergency surgery is necessary to stop the blood loss
  • Surgery is generally recommended for patients with an enlarged or growing aortic aneurysm so that the repair can be made prior to a life-threatening rupture.