An aortic aneurysm is a bulge that appears in the wall of the major blood vessel that carries blood away from the heart and to the body. It can occur anywhere in the aorta and can have various shapes and sizes. It may also lead to aortic dissection and increase a patient’s risk of an aortic burst. Certain things can put a person at higher risk for an aortic aneurysm, but just because someone follows these characteristics doesn’t necessarily mean they will have an aortic aneurysm. These risk factors include:

  • Diabetes
  • Blood pressure issues
  • Male sex
  • Smoking
  • Marfan syndrome
  • Family history of aortic aneurysm
  • Hardening of the arteries

Symptoms of aortic aneurysms

An aortic aneurysm has no symptoms until it becomes very large and ruptures. When aortic aneurysms are found before rupturing, it is usually an accident and during a regular medical exam. Some of the common symptoms of a large or ruptured aortic aneurysm include:

  • Pressure in chest and back
  • Chest pain
  • Fast heart rate
  • Dizziness
  • Rapid breathing
  • A feeling of fullness after small meals

Causes of aortic aneurysms

Aortic aneurysms are caused by a thinning of the aortic wall. The weakness may be caused by an injury, or the patient may be born with it. Certain things may also contribute to the weakening of the aortic wall, including:

  • Atherosclerosis
  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • Cystic medial necrosis
  • Mycotic aneurysm
  • Inflammatory aneurysm
  • Injury

How are aortic aneurysms diagnosed?

Aortic aneurysms are usually only diagnosed after they have ruptured or become severe. Sometimes they are found while doctors are testing patients for other health problems. They will consider the patient’s symptoms, and if they are concerned that the person may have an aortic aneurysm, they will do tests to confirm the diagnosis. Some common diagnostic tests include:

  • Ultrasound
  • X-ray
  • MRI
  • CT scan
  • Aortography

Aortic aneurysm treatments

An aortic aneurysm is considered a medical emergency and requires immediate medical care. If the aneurysm is caught before it bursts, surgery may be able to correct the problem. Once a patient has had one aortic aneurysm, they are at risk for more, and patients are monitored by doctors in case another occurs. If an aortic aneurysm has already burst, doctors will work to stop the bleeding and leaking with emergency surgery. If the surgery is successful, patients will stay in the hospital, where they will be monitored and may receive various medications to help prevent future aneurysms.