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Heart & Vascular Program

Heart Health

Diseases & Conditions: Aneurysmal Disease

An aneurysm occurs when the wall of an artery weakens and begins to bulge. Any artery can be affected, but the most common area affected is the abdominal aorta. The aorta is your largest blood vessel and it carries blood away from the heart to all parts of your body.

Seventy-five percent of abdominal aortic aneurysms (AAAs) have no symptoms and are found during routine physical examination. When there are symptoms they may include:

  • A pulsating mass felt in the abdomen or visible on abdominal X-ray.
  • Chronic back, side or pelvic pain.
  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Fever, malaise and abdominal pain.
  • Sudden onset of severe, constant pain in the abdomen, side or back, unrelieved by changing positions, is associated with expansion or rupture of the aneurysm. If this occurs it is a medical emergency and immediate medical attention is required.

The treatment of an aneurysm is determined by the size and location of the enlargement. For aneurysms smaller than five centimeters, the risk of surgery may outweigh the risk of the aneurysm rupturing.