Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm

What is an Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm?

An abdominal aortic aneurysm is a weakened and bulging area in the lower part of the aorta, the major blood vessel that supplies blood to the body. The aorta, about the thickness of a garden hose, runs from your heart through the center of your chest and abdomen. Because the aorta is the body’s main supplier of blood, a ruptured abdominal aortic aneurysm can cause life-threatening bleeding. Most small and slow-growing abdominal aortic aneurysms don’t rupture, but large, fast-growing abdominal aortic aneurysms may. Depending on the size and rate at which the aortic aneurysm is growing, treatment may vary from watchful waiting to emergency surgery. Once an abdominal aortic aneurysm is found, doctors will closely monitor it so that surgery can be planned if it’s necessary. Emergency surgery for a ruptured abdominal aneurysm can be risky.

What are some of the risk factors for Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm?

Exact cause of abdominal aortic aneurysm is unknown. However there are several factors that may play a role, including:

  • Tobacco Use – Tobacco is a strong risk factor for the development of an aortic aneurysm.  The longer you’ve smoked or chewed tobacco, the greater your risk.
  • High Blood Pressure – High blood pressure damages the blood vessels in the body, raising your chances of developing aneurysm.
  • Atherosclerosis – Atherosclerosis, the buildup of fat and other substances that can damage the lining of a blood vessel, increases your risk of an aneurysm.
  • Age – Abdominal aortic aneurysms occur most often in people age 60 and older.
  • Male – Men develop aortic aneurysm much more often than women do.  However, women with aortic aneurysm have a higher risk of rupture than do men.
  • Race – Aortic aneurysms occur more commonly in Caucasians than in people of other races.
  • Family History – There is a familial tendency to developing abdominal aortic aneurysms.  Individual with first-degree relatives having abdominal aortic aneurysm has increased chance of developing this condition when compared to general population.  They also tend to develop the aneurysms at younger ages and have a higher tendency to suffer aneurysm rupture than individuals without family history.