Are You at Risk for an Aortic Aneurysm?

Emory Heart & Vascular

An Aortic aneurysm is a serious vascular condition and a leading cause of sudden death in men over 60. Therefore, it is important that we discuss what aortic aneurysms are, possible symptoms and how to treat them.

What are aortic aneurysms?

Aneurysms are abnormal bulges (ballooning) in the wall of an artery. Many aneurysms occur in the aorta (the main artery that carries blood from the heart to the rest of the body). Since the section with the aneurysm is overstretched, it can burst. If the aorta bursts, it usually causes serious bleeding. If not treated very quickly a burst aorta can quickly lead to death.

There are two main types of aortic aneurysms:

  1. Thoracic aortic aneurysms – these aneurysms occur in the part of the aorta that runs through the chest.
  2. Abdominal aortic aneurysms – these aneurysms occur in the part of the aorta that runs through the abdomen.

What are causes/symptoms of aortic aneurysm?

Some medical problems like high blood pressure or hardening of the arteries weaken the artery walls and can result in a weak aortic wall that will bulge.
Unfortunately aortic aneurysms do not usually cause symptoms so we recommend screening tests for aneurysms for men who are in the following categories:

  • 65 to 75 and have smoked in his lifetime or
  • 60 years old and have a first-degree relative (father or brother) who has had an aneurysm.

Some people say they have belly, chest, or back discomfort that may come and go or stay constant. If not diagnosed and treated the aortic aneurysm can lead to other problems such as blood clots that lead to stroke or blood clots that form an aortic aneurysm in the belly or legs.

If you are an older male with high blood pressure, a family history of abdominal aortic aneurysms in first degree relatives that you are at risk for an aortic aneurysm and have been a smoker or alcohol drinker you could be at risk.

If you think you have an aneurysm, we recommend you call your physician and schedule a screening test. Your physician will likely perform an ultrasound, a CT scan, or an MRI to find out where it is and how big it is.

About Karthik Kasirajan, MD:
Dr. Kasirajan specializes in surgery and vascular surgery, and has been practicing at Emory since 2003. Several of his areas of interest include peripheral arterial disease, endovascular surgery, abdominal and aortic aneurysm, vascular surgery, thrombotic disease, and stroke. Dr. Kasirajan holds many organizational leadership memberships, including the European Society for Vascular Surgery, International College of Surgeons, and the Peripheral Vascular Surgical Society, and is widely published in publications such as the Journal of Endovascular Therapy and the Journal of Vascular Surgery.

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