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Nonruptured Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm


What is an abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA)?

The aorta is a large blood vessel that extends from your heart to your abdomen. The part of the aorta that extends into your abdomen is called your abdominal aorta. Your abdominal aorta brings blood to your stomach, pelvis, and legs. An AAA is a bulging or weak area in your abdominal aorta. Over time, the bulge may grow and is at risk for tearing or rupturing. An AAA that ruptures is a life-threatening emergency.

What increases my risk for an AAA?

  • High blood pressure or atherosclerosis (the buildup of fat and cholesterol in your arteries)
  • Being overweight or obese
  • Smoking
  • A family or personal history of a AAA
  • Age older than 60
  • Being male
  • A connective tissue disease such as Marfan syndrome

What are the signs and symptoms of a nonruptured AAA?

An AAA usually does not have signs or symptoms if it has not ruptured. If the AAA starts to leak or ruptures, you may have any of the following:

  • Sudden pain in your abdomen, groin, back, legs, or buttocks
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • A lump or swelling in your abdomen
  • Stiff abdominal muscles
  • Numbness or tingling in your legs
  • Pale, sweaty, or clammy skin
  • Dizziness, fainting or loss of consciousness

How is a nonruptured AAA diagnosed?

An AAA is often found when you have a test or exam for another condition. If you have risk factors for an AAA, you may need an ultrasound, CT scan, MRI, or angiography. These tests can measure the size and location of your AAA.

How is an AAA treated?

Your AAA may not need treatment. Your healthcare provider may monitor the size of your AAA with tests, such as an ultrasound. You may be given medicines to prevent the AAA from growing. Examples include blood pressure medicine and medicine to lower your cholesterol. If your AAA gets bigger, starts to leak, or ruptures, you may need any of the following:

  • Endovascular repair is a procedure that uses a graft to repair your AAA. The graft stops blood flow to the aneurysm and protects your abdominal aorta. You may need to have more than 1 endovascular repair.
  • Open repair is surgery to repair or remove an AAA.

What can I do to manage a nonruptured AAA?

You can help prevent your AAA from growing or rupturing by doing the following:

  • Do not smoke. Nicotine and other chemicals in cigarettes and cigars can increase your blood pressure. It can also damage your aorta and increase the size of your AAA. Ask your healthcare provider for information if you currently smoke and need help to quit. E-cigarettes or smokeless tobacco still contain nicotine. Talk to your healthcare provider before you use these products.
  • Exercise as directed. Exercise can help control your blood pressure and cholesterol level. Ask your healthcare provider how much exercise you need each day and which exercises are best for you.
  • Follow the meal plan recommended by your healthcare provider. Talk to your dietitian about a heart-healthy or low-sodium eating plan. Meal plans will help you lower your cholesterol and blood pressure. They will also help you reach a healthy weight.
  • Do not lift anything heavier than 10 pounds. Heavy lifting can increase pressure in your abdominal aorta. This can increase your risk for a ruptured AAA.

Call 911 or have someone else call for any of the following:

  • You faint or lose consciousness.
  • You cannot be woken.

When should I seek immediate care?

The following signs or symptoms may mean the AAA is at risk of rupturing:

  • You have sudden sharp pain in your abdomen, groin, back, legs, or buttocks.
  • You have nausea and vomiting.
  • You feel dizzy.
  • You have stiffness or swelling in your abdomen, or a lump in your abdomen.
  • You have numbness or tingling in your legs.
  • Your skin is pale, sweaty, or clammy.

When should I contact my healthcare provider?

  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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Further information

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