The aorta is the largest blood vessel in the human body. It carries blood from the heart up to the head and arms and down to the abdomen, legs, and pelvis. The walls of the aorta can swell or bulge out like a small balloon if they become weak.
This is called an abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) when it happens in the part of the aorta that is in the abdomen. A ruptured abdominal aortic aneurysm can cause life-threatening bleeding.
Abdominal aortic aneurysms often grow slowly without symptoms, making them difficult to detect. Some aneurysms never rupture. Many start small and stay small; others expand over time, some quickly.
Some symptoms may include;
- deep , constant pain in the abdomen or on the side of the abdomen
- Back pain
- A pulse near the belly button
Aneurysms can develop anywhere along the aorta, but most aortic aneurysms occur in the part of the aorta that’s in the abdomen. A number of factors can play a role in developing an aortic aneurysm, including;
- Hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis)
- High blood pressure
- Blood vessel diseases
- Infection in the aorta
If a large AAA is detected before it ruptures, most people will be advised to have treatment, to prevent it rupturing. This is usually done with surgery to replace the weakened section of the blood vessel with a piece of synthetic tubing.
If surgery is not advisable – or if the patient decides not to have it – there are a number of non-surgical treatments that can reduce the risk of an aneurysm rupturing.
They include medications to lower cholesterol and blood pressure, and quitting smoking. Aneurysm will also have to be checked regularly with ultrasound scanning to monitor its size.
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