Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm

Need Advanced Treatment for Vascular Disease in Orange County? Hoag Has It.

Our subspecialized Vascular Program at Hoag’s Jeffrey M. Carlton Heart and Vascular Institute is a recognized leader in Orange County for the diagnosis and treatment of vascular disease.

Every day, our world-class team of cardiovascular experts is helping people with vascular disease meet the challenge of the complex range of conditions that can impact the circulatory system. From vasculitis to hard-to-control hypertension, abdominal aortic aneurysm to deep vein thrombosis (DVT), there’s healing and hope at Hoag.

Read on for what you need to know about abdominal aortic aneurysms, including symptoms, causes and risk factors. And if you need experienced and patient-focused care for vascular diseases in Orange County, we’re here to help. Contact us today through our online form.

Or visit this link to learn more about how vascular disease is treated at Hoag, including advanced endovascular surgery and aneurysm repair techniques that are changing the way these dangerous conditions are treated in Southern California.

What is an Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm?

Abdominal aortic aneurysm, also called AAA or aortic dilation, is a type of vascular disease in which the portion of the aorta that runs through the abdomen develops a pronounced bulge.

The body’s most critical and largest blood vessel, the aorta is a sort of circulatory freeway, carrying oxygen-rich blood away from the heart so it can be distributed through smaller blood vessels and utilized by the rest of the body.

Hooked like a cane at the top where it connects to the heart, the aorta runs from the upper chest to the pelvis. The portion of the aorta that runs through the abdomen is called the abdominal aorta, while the portion that runs through the chest is called the thoracic aorta.

Abdominal aortic aneurysms can be very dangerous. Over time, large aortic aneurysms stretch and further weaken the walls of the aorta. In some cases, an aortic aneurysm can grow so large that it bursts — what’s known as a rupture, which can cause life-threatening internal bleeding.

Aortic aneurysm can also result in aortic dissection, a potentially deadly condition in which a tear in the wall of the aorta allows blood to rush between the layers of the aortic wall and forces (or dissects) them apart.

What Causes Abdominal Aortic Aneurysms?

An abdominal aortic aneurysm is caused by a weakness in the wall of the aorta that allows that section of the aorta to bulge under the pressure of constant blood flow.

There are several conditions, lifestyle factors and other issues that can contribute to or cause the aortic weakness that can lead to an abdominal aortic aneurysm.

These factors may include:

  • Genetics, as those who have a family history of AAA are more likely to experience AAA themselves
  • Smoking, which is the most common risk factor for abdominal aortic aneurysm
  • High blood pressure, also known as hypertension
  • Atherosclerosis, which is a condition characterized by the buildup of a fatty substance called plaque on the walls of blood vessels
  • Blunt force trauma to the abdomen, often due a fall or car accident
  • Penetrative injuries to the abdomen, often due to a stabbing or gunshot wound

What are the Symptoms of Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm?

In most cases, abdominal aortic aneurysms are asymptomatic, meaning they cause no symptoms at all. Many people are diagnosed accidentally, during examinations or imaging of the abdomen while being treated for another condition.

In some cases, however, AAA does create noticeable symptoms. These may include:

  • A feeling of something throbbing or pulsating in the belly
  • Gnawing, steady pain in the lower back or in the lower abdomen below the navel that may last for hours or days
  • A bulge or mass that can be felt through the skin of the abdomen, and which may pulsate with each heartbeat

Symptoms of aortic aneurysm rupture or dissection may include:

  • Sudden, severe pain in the lower back or abdomen
  • Low blood pressure
  • Feeling faint or dizzy
  • A throbbing mass in the abdomen that can be felt through the skin
  • Abdominal tenderness and pain
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Severe leg pain
  • Passing out
  • Cardiac arrest and death

What are the Risk Factors for Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm?

There are several factors that may increase your risk for developing an abdominal aortic aneurysm. These may include:

  • Smoking
  • High blood pressure
  • Atherosclerosis, which is a condition involving the arteries becoming narrowed and clogged by a waxy substance called plaque.
  • Having a family history of AAA
  • Being older
  • Obesity
  • Eating a diet that’s high in fat and cholesterol
  • Being male, as men are more likely to experience AAA than women
  • Certain genetic connective tissue diseases can weaken the aortic wall, including Marfan syndrome, though aneurysms of the abdominal aorta are rare in those with these conditions. Visit this link to learn more about Hoag’s unique Marfan Syndrome and Related Conditions Program, providing hope for those with genetically linked connective tissue diseases that can cause aortic issues.
Are there any ways to reduce my risk factors for abdominal aortic aneurysm?

Because abdominal aortic aneurysms are sometimes caused by issues beyond a person’s control, including genetics, there’s no known way to prevent a person from developing AAA.

However, there are ways you can potentially avoid the cardiac conditions that can cause aortic weakness and result in an abdominal aortic aneurysm. These may include:

  • Take the steps necessary to maintain good cardiovascular health, including eating a diet that’s low in salt and fat, getting plenty of regular exercise and maintaining a healthy weight
  • Don’t smoke, and quit if you do
  • If you have conditions like atherosclerosis, high blood pressure, or inherited connective tissue diseases that can cause weakness in the aortic wall, regularly consult with your doctor and follow their instructions exactly, including taking all prescribed medications.
  • Screening with abdominal ultrasound is an important factor in the early detection of aortic aneurysms. Screening is especially important if you have risk factors such as high blood pressure, smoking, high cholesterol, family history and age over 65 (or 60 and under if one of your relatives had an aortic aneurysm).

Need Treatment for Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm? Orange County chooses Hoag for Advanced AAA Care.

From Irvine to San Clemente, Huntington Beach to Yorba Linda, those who need advanced, patient-focused AAA care in Orange County turn to Hoag.

Visit our treatment page or diagnosis and testing page to learn more. Or, connect with our subspecialized team today through our online form or by calling 949-764-5871.


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