An aortic aneurysm is a bulge that develops in the aorta, the largest artery in the body. While an aortic aneurysm may burst, causing serious health problems, it is also possible for an aneurysm to be in the aorta without rupturing. Many people mistakenly believe that an aneurysm refers to the actual event of a rupture.
Smaller aneurysms are generally monitored by a physician. They can be diagnosed and monitored using a variety of diagnostic tools, such as an x-ray, EKG, MRI or CT scan. If the physician notices the aneurysm getting larger, he may recommend treatment. The larger an aneurysm becomes, the greater the likelihood is that it may burst.
Aortic aneurysms are most commonly located in the area below the kidneys. In this location, an aneurysm is called an abdominal aneurysm. If the aneurysm is located higher up, in the chest cavity, it is called a thoracic aneurysm.
There are a variety of reasons that someone may develop an aneurysm. They include genetic factors and weakness in the artery caused by atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis weakens the artery when fatty deposits in the blood build up on the artery walls.
If an aortic aneurysm bursts, it is a medical emergency. The main symptom of a burst aneurysm is severe pain. Debilitating pain should send you to the closest emergency room. Successful treatment of an aneurysm is largely dependent on how quickly the patient receives care.
Doctors can repair a burst aortic aneurysm by sewing in a piece of artificial blood vessel. This closes off the aneurysm and strengthens the arterial wall so that it will not burst again. While this is delicate surgery, the prognosis can be good with prompt medical treatment. The most important thing a physician must do when repairing a burst aortic aneurysm is to stop the flow of blood into the abdominal or chest cavity.
People often don’t realize that they have an aortic aneurysm until is bursts. Aneurysms often don't cause any symptoms before they burst. If you have a family member with an aortic aneurysm or you have heart problems that are associated with atherosclerosis, such as high cholesterol, you may want to talk to your doctor about a screening. If your doctor believes that you may suffer from an aortic aneurysm, he or she can conduct a screening test to look at your aorta and detect weak areas. If any are found, regular monitoring will let you know if it begins to swell.