Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm: Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment

Blog Post
By South Valley Vascular
January 22, 2021

An abdominal aortic aneurysm is typically found in older men, especially those who are smokers. These are balloon-like bulges in the aorta, which is the largest artery and is responsible for carrying blood from the heart through the chest and torso. When the force of blood pumping is too much it will end up splitting the layers of the artery’s walls.

What Are Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm Symptoms?

These aneurysms tend to grow slowly, typically without any symptoms whatsoever. However, some people do mention that they feel a pulsating feeling near their navel. Others mention feeling pain in their back, belly, or side. Oftentimes this is a sign that the aneurysm is about to rupture.

Symptoms of a leaking aneurysm include:

  • Sudden, intense, or persistent pain in either the back or chest
  • Pain that radiates into the back
  • Difficulty breathing or swallowing
  • Low blood pressure
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Clammy skin
  • An increased heart rate

 

Symptoms of a ruptured aneurysm include:

  • Dizziness
  • Dry mouth or excessive thirst
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Low blood pressure
  • Shock: shaking, fainting, sweating, and a rapid heartbeat

How Is an Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm Diagnosed?

Many times, the abdominal aortic aneurysm will be diagnosed for the first time during a chest X-ray, CT scan, or ultrasound for some unrelated reason. Anyone who has had abdominal aortic aneurysm symptoms will need an abdominal aortic aneurysm screening. This usually starts with a physical exam but doctors also use other tests, including:

  • An echocardiogram, which uses sound waves to capture images of the aneurysm in real-time. This test allows the doctor to tell how well the heart’s chambers and valves are working.
  • A transesophageal echocardiogram, which allows the doctor to get a better view of the aorta. Here a device is gently guided down the esophagus that uses sound waves to capture images.
  • A CT scan is a type of X-ray that captures cross-sectional images of the aorta. Doctors use this test to detect the aneurysm’s size and shape. For this test, the patient will lay on a table inside of an X-ray machine that’s shaped like a doughnut. Sometimes contrast dye is injected into the veins to make the arteries more visible when the images are taken.
  • MRIs use a combination of a magnetic field and radio waves to take pictures of this part of the body. Doctors appreciate this test because it can help them determine the exact size and location of the aneurysm. Sometimes contrast dye is also used in this test as well to make the blood vessels much more visible on the images.

 

How Is an Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm Treated?

Small aneurysms (under 5.5 cm), also known as slow-growing aneurysms, are not as likely to rupture as larger ones or ones that grow at a faster rate. Most doctors will simply monitor these with routine abdominal ultrasound instead of treating them. 

Large aneurysms (over 5.5 cm), also known as fast-growing aneurysms, are the ones that are of more concern because of the greater likelihood that they will rupture. Such ruptures can be life-threatening because they can result in serious complications such as internal bleeding. The larger the aneurysm is, the more likely it will need to be treated with surgery, especially if it is leaking blood or causing other symptoms.

 

If you need an abdominal aortic aneurysm screening and live near the Southern San Joaquin Valley, call (559) 625-4118 or visit  South Valley Vascular today. The healthcare professionals here have many years of experience, so you can trust them to take great care of you.