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Nonruptured Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Dec 2, 2022.

What is an abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA)?

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. 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 that ruptures is a life-threatening emergency.

What increases my risk for an AAA?

  • Smoking
  • High blood pressure or atherosclerosis (the buildup of fat and cholesterol in your arteries)
  • Being overweight or obese
  • 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 an 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

What do I need to know about screening for a nonruptured AAA?

Screening means you are checked 1 time based on AAA risk factors. Ultrasound pictures are commonly used. Screening is offered to adults 65 to 75 years old.

  • If you are a man:
    • Screening is recommended if you are a current or past smoker.
    • Screening may be recommended if you never smoked but have AAA risk factors.
  • If you are a woman:
    • Screening may be recommended if you are a current or past smoker or have AAA risk factors. Your healthcare provider will recommend screening only if the benefits outweigh the risks for you.
    • Screening is not recommended if you never smoked.
  • Your provider will help you understand the benefits and risks of screening:
    • The benefit is that your provider can monitor a small AAA or treat a large AAA sooner.
    • The risk is that surgery may be used to treat an AAA that would not have ruptured. Surgery for a nonruptured AAA has risks, but it is less risky than an AAA rupture.

How is a nonruptured AAA diagnosed?

An AAA is often found when you have a test or exam for another condition. Ultrasound, CT scan, MRI, or angiography pictures may be used to 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 medicines to lower your blood pressure or cholesterol level. 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.
Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm Repair

Treatment options

The following list of medications are in some way related to or used in the treatment of this condition.

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.
    Walking for Exercise
  • 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 your local emergency number (911 in the US), or have someone else call if:

  • 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 are 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 call my doctor?

  • 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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