An abdominal aortic aneurysm is a very serious condition, but not all cases require treatment.

The aorta is the largest blood vessel in the body.

It comes out of the heart and travels all the way down the abdomen, where it branches off to feed blood to the lower extremities as well as organs, especially the liver and kidneys.

Usually, a bulging section of this great vessel is discovered by accident, when the patient is imaged for an unrelated cause.

For example, he might undergo an X-ray covering the abdominal region for an unrelated issue, and the ballooned portion of the aorta is picked up on the study.

Treatment for  an Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm

If the vessel is only mildly dilated, the treatment will be ongoing surveillance via imaging studies to track the growth of the aneurysm.

“If you have been diagnosed with an aortic aneurysm and have been told to simply observe symptoms, know what symptoms you should be looking for,” says Walter Gaman, MD, FABFM, board certified in family medicine and the author of several award-winning books including “Age to Perfection: How to Thrive to 100, Happy, Healthy, and Wise.”

“This will allow you to recognize a serious change in your condition.”

The symptoms may be abdominal pain, back pain, a bulge in the lower abdomen and/or feeling a throbbing pulse in the lower abdomen (without actually touching the area with your fingertips).

“Also, share these symptoms with your family members so they will know how to react in case of an emergency,” says Dr. Gaman.

If the aneurysm ruptures, the pain will be sudden and agonizing, capable of bringing the person to the floor.

“Alerting medical personnel early will help your chances of survival. The most common symptom is intense pain in your abdomen, side, or back.”

The excruciating pain of a ruptured abdominal aortic aneurysm may be the person’s first symptom.

The mortality rate is very high due to the rapid internal hemorrhaging.

Hertzer NR, CC

Risk Factors

  • Male gender
  • Over age 70
  • Smoking
  • High blood pressure
  • Family history of AAA

Ongoing Surveillance

“Aortic aneurysms should be monitored yearly,” says Dr. Gaman. “If they get to or above five to six cm in diameter, surgical intervention may be necessary.”

Sometimes, though, when an abdominal aortic aneurysm is discovered, it’s already at a life-threatening size, and the diseased portion must be repaired asap.

The repair may be done invasively by opening up the abdomen, or, it may be done endovascularly, which means a shorter recovery time and lower risks of complications.

Dr. Gaman is with Executive Medicine of Texas and is with the Staying Young Radio Show 2.0 podcast.
Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer.  



Top image: Shutterstock/Alila Medical Media