Heart & Vascular
Aortic Aneurysm Aortic Aneurysm

Aortic Aneurysm

A ballooning and weakened area in an artery. Aneurysms often occur in the aorta, brain, back of the knee, intestine, or spleen. A ruptured aneurysm can result in internal bleeding, stroke, and can sometimes be fatal.

What are the causes of aortic aneurysm?

There are a number of causes to aortic aneurysms, from family history to lifestyle factors. One of the major factors is age. Over time, the aorta naturally loses its elasticity, which can lead to aneurysm. Some other causes that increase the likelihood of an aneurysm developing include:

  • Atherosclerosis, or hardening of the aortic walls
  • Hypertension, or high blood pressure
  • Hypercholesterolemia, or high cholesterol
  • Infections, such as endocarditis
  • Inflammation
  • Injury to the chest or stomach
  • Smoking
  • Genes associated with aortic aneurysms

Having a relative with an aortic aneurysm significantly increases the risk of developing one. Certain inherited connective tissue disorders such as Marfan’s syndrome can also weaken aortic walls, increasing the risk of aneurysm.


Types of Aortic Aneurysms

Abdominal Aortic Aneursym

Please reference the Abdominal Aortic Aneursym tab on the Vascular Surgery and Endovascular Interventions page.

Thoracic Aneurysm

A thoracic aortic aneurysm is a weakened area in the upper part of the aorta — the major blood vessel that feeds blood to the body. Aneurysms can develop anywhere in the aorta. A thoracic aortic aneurysm is a weakened area in the major blood vessel that feeds blood to the body (aorta).


Symptoms of Aortic Aneurysm

Aneurysms usually do not cause any symptoms until they become very large or rupture. Aneurysms in the abdominal aorta are often found when the individual undergoes a medical test or procedure for some other reason.

Chest pain and back pain are the two most common symptoms of large aneurysms. However, some people describe the following symptoms of an aortic aneurysm:

  • A pulsating bulge or a strong pulse in the abdomen
  • Feeling of fullness after minimal food intake
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting


Medical Monitoring
Your doctor might recommend this option if your abdominal aortic aneurysm is small and you don't have symptoms. Your doctor will monitor you to check if your aneurysm is growing, and treatment to manage other medical conditions, such as high blood pressure, that could worsen your aneurysm.


Surgical Repair

Repair is generally recommended if your aneurysm attains a certain size or if it's growing quickly. Also, your doctor might recommend surgery if you have symptoms such as stomach pain or you have a leaking, tender or painful aneurysm.

Depending on several factors, including location and size of the aneurysm, your age, and other conditions you have, repair options might include:

Open aortic aneurysm surgery involves making a large incision in the chest or abdomen. Your doctor removes the weakened part of your aorta and replaces it with a synthetic graft.

A less invasive procedure called endovascular repair is another option. Doctors attach a synthetic graft to the end of a thin tube (catheter) that's inserted through an artery in your leg and threaded into your aorta. The graft is placed at the site of the aneurysm, expanded and fastened in place. It reinforces the weakened section of the aorta to prevent rupture of the aneurysm.