Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm

Treating Cardiovascular Diseases in Wisconsin and Northern Illinois

The aorta, the largest artery in your body, carries oxygen-rich blood from your heart through your chest and abdomen. An abdominal aortic aneurysm, or AAA, occurs when a balloon-shaped bulge forms in the lower part of the aorta, causing it to distend and weaken.

Most abdominal aortic aneurysms develop over several years. Thanks to improved diagnostic testing, many are discovered and treated before they produce symptoms.

If an abdominal aortic aneurysm Is left undiagnosed and untreated, it may eventually rupture, causing internal bleeding. This is a life-threatening condition that requires immediate medical treatment. 

Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm Symptoms

Many times, an AAA grows undetected for years. When signs of abdominal aortic aneurysm eventually appear, they may include any of the following:

  • A throbbing feeling in your abdomen
  • Deep pain in your back or in the side of your abdomen
  • Steady, gnawing abdominal pain that lasts for hours or days

Symptoms of abdominal aortic aneurysm rupture may include:

  • A rapid heart rate when standing up
  • Clammy, sweaty skin
  • Constipation and problems with urination
  • Lightheadedness
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Shock from internal bleeding
  • Sudden, severe pain in your lower abdomen and back

Shock is a life-threatening condition that can occur when blood pressure drops so low that the brain, kidneys and other vital organs do not receive the blood they need to work effectively.

Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm Causesand Risks

The following factors and conditions can increase your risk of developing an abdominal aortic aneurysm:

  • A family history of aneurysms
  • Advancing age
  • Atherosclerosis
  • Being male
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Infection
  • Smoking
  • Trauma, such as a car accident

Diagnosing Abdominal Aortic Aneurysms

Doctors often detect an aneurysm by chance while performing a routine physical exam or when performing tests for other reasons. However, if you are at risk for developing an aneurysm or have related symptoms, your doctor may recommend any of the following:

  • Angiography 
  • Cardiac computed tomography, also known as a CT angiogram
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
  • Ultrasound testing, also known as echocardiography

Treating Abdominal Aortic Aneurysms

Small aneurysms that don’t have symptoms may not require treatment. However, your doctor may recommend careful monitoring every six to 12 months.

If your aneurysm is large or causing symptoms, it should be treated with medications to lower your blood pressure, relax your blood vessels and reduce the risk of rupture or dissection.

If your condition requires additional treatment, you doctor may recommend either of the following procedures:

A Leader in Treating Abdominal Aortic Aneurysms

Aurora Health Care established the Center for Marfan and Aortic Disorders, located in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, to help people with abdominal aortic aneurysms and related conditions lead healthy, active lives.

We provide individualized treatment plans diagnose, evaluate and treat abdominal aortic aneurysms. To learn more, please call the Center for Marfan and Aortic Disorders, 414-385-2400 or toll free 855-229-2400.

Aurora doctors are conveniently located throughout eastern Wisconsin and northeastern Illinois. Find a doctor or heart specialist near you. To get a second opinion or if you need assistance finding a provider, please call 888-649-6892.