What is an aortic aneurysm?
An aortic aneurysm is defined as an abnormal bulge in the wall of the aorta. The aorta is the major blood vessel carrying blood from the heart to the rest of the body. They can arise anywhere in the aorta and either be tube shaped or round.
An abdominal aortic aneurysm arises in the section of the aorta which travels through the abdomen.
A thoracic aortic aneurysm arises in the section of the aorta which travels through the chest.
Some patient can have aortic aneurysms in both locations.
Aortic aneurysms significantly increase the risk of developing an aortic dissection. This is when a tear in the lining of the aorta appears. The problem with this is that layers of the lining separate and that makes the wall thinner and weaker. The worry is that either the aneurysm or dissection will rupture.
The symptoms can vary depending on the location of the aneurysm:
Thoracic aortic aneurysms grow slowly and often don't have symptoms. However, when they grow larger symptoms include:
Tenderness & pain in the chest
Shortness of breath
Abdominal aortic aneurysms also grow slowly and often don't have symptoms. However, when they grow larger symptoms include:
Pain deep in the abdomen
A pulsing sensation near the belly button
What causes an aortic aneurysm?
Causes of an aortic aneurysm vary but can include:
Atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries due to build up of fat and substances in the lining of the aorta
High blood pressure
Damage of the blood vessel caused by other condition
Infection - bacterial or fungal infection can, rarely, lead to an aneurysm
Aortic valve problems
Genetic conditions - particularly in aortic aneurysms in younger people
Are there any risk factors?
The simple answer is yes, some factors can increase the risk of aortic aneurysm development, these include:
Age - more common in over 65s
High blood pressure
Build up of plaque in arteries
Underlying health conditions
Bicuspid aortic valve - nearly half of those with two rather than three cusps in their aortic valve develop an aortic aneurysm
Treatments for aortic aneurysms can include:
Monitoring - if its is small regular scan and check up to monitor its growth may be all that's needed for now
Medications - these can help reduce blood pressure or artery blockages. These may include beta blockers, statins and angiotensin II receptor blockers
Surgery - the type of surgery depends on the location of the aneurysm and your general health condition
This article is intended to inform and give insight but not treat, diagnose or replace the advice of a doctor. Always seek medical advice with any questions regarding a medical condition.