Please note: This information was current at the time of publication. But medical information is always changing, and some information given here may be out of date. For regularly updated information on a variety of health topics, please visit familydoctor.org, the AAFP patient education website.
Information from Your Family Doctor
Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm (AAA): What You Should Know
Am Fam Physician. 2006 Apr 1;73(7):1205-1206.
See related article on abdominal aortic aneurysm.
What is an AAA?
The main blood vessel in your body is the aorta (say: a-OR-ta). It carries blood from your heart to the rest of your body. It is a long blood vessel that reaches from your chest into your abdomen. The part of the aorta in your abdomen is called the “abdominal aorta.”
An aneurysm (say: AN-yur-izm) is a weak area in a blood vessel. If a blood vessel weakens, it starts to swell like a balloon. If the aneurysm grows too large, your aorta may burst.
What causes an AAA?
The most common causes are smoking, high blood pressure, and atherosclerosis (say: ATH-er-o-skler-O-sis). Atherosclerosis is when fat builds up in a blood vessel. This is sometimes called hardening of the arteries.
Who gets an AAA?
Aneurysms are more common in older people and in men. Your risk of getting an AAA is higher if you have smoked or had high blood pressure for a long time. It also may run in families.
What are the symptoms of an AAA?
Most people have no symptoms. When the blood vessel walls start to leak, you may feel pain in your back, stomach, buttocks, groin, testicle, or leg.
How can I tell if I have an AAA?
If you have a higher risk of an AAA, or if you have any of the symptoms, you should talk to your doctor. Your doctor may order a test called an ultrasound. It can help measure the size of your aorta.
How is an AAA treated?
If your aneurysm is large or is growing quickly, you will most likely need surgery. If your aneurysm is small, your doctor may watch it using the ultrasound.
It is important to stop the aneurysm from bursting. You can help by quitting smoking and by working with your doctor to control your blood pressure and cholesterol.
Where can I get more information?
Society for Vascular Surgery
University of Michigan
Web site:http://vascular.um-surgery.org/ (click on Clinical Information)
MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia
This handout is provided to you by your family doctor and the American Academy of Family Physicians. Other health-related information is available from the AAFP online at http://familydoctor.org.
This information provides a general overview and may not apply to everyone. Talk to your family doctor to find out if this information applies to you and to get more information on this subject.
Copyright © 2006 by the American Academy of Family Physicians.
This content is owned by the AAFP. A person viewing it online may make one printout of the material and may use that printout only for his or her personal, non-commercial reference. This material may not otherwise be downloaded, copied, printed, stored, transmitted or reproduced in any medium, whether now known or later invented, except as authorized in writing by the AAFP. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for copyright questions and/or permission requests.
Want to use this article elsewhere? Get Permissions