What are the signs of an Aortic Aneurysm?

Published: Tuesday, December 20, 2022
Cardiothoracic Surgeon

Aortic aneurysms were the main cause of death of nearly 10,000 people in 2019 in the U.S.  It’s important to know what to look for to detect this condition before it causes problems.

The aorta is the main artery carrying blood throughout your body. When an aortic aneurysm occurs, a weak spot in the aorta begins to expand and bulge.

These aneurysms become life-threatening when it grows to be too large, resulting in the aneurysm bursting or dissecting the artery. Some aneurysms present with little or no symptoms, making them difficult to detect before they rupture.

Risks for Aortic Aneurysms

There are some conditions and risk factors that put individuals at higher risk of developing an aortic aneurysm. These include:

  • Age.
    Your risk for an aortic aneurysm becomes higher as you age. People over the age of 65 are at an increased risk to develop an aortic aneurysm.
  • Genetic conditions.
    Conditions such as Marfan Syndrome can affect how the body produces connective tissues, resulting in an increased likelihood to develop an aneurysm.
  • High cholesterol.
    High cholesterol can lead to atherosclerosis – a build-up of plaque in your arteries.
  • High blood pressure.
    High blood pressure is a leading cause of aortic aneurysms.
  • Smoking.
    A history of smoking has been linked to abdominal aortic aneurysms.

If you’re concerned about your heart health, talk to your doctor about being screened for an aortic aneurysm, which can be present even without symptoms.

Symptoms of an Aortic Aneurysm

Knowing the symptoms of an aneurysm is important to increase the chances of treatment and survival. Symptoms of an aortic aneurysm can mimic those of a heart attack, but some are unique:

  • Chest Pain
  • Sudden sharp pain in the jaw, shoulder or back
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Passing out
  • Nausea or vomiting

If you or someone you know is experiencing these symptoms, seek medical attention.

Screening & Treating an Aortic Aneurysm

Early detection is important in this condition. If left untreated, an aortic aneurysm can rupture or dissect, leading to death. If your physician suspects that you may have an aortic aneurysm, they will order an ultrasound to confirm the diagnosis.

After the aneurysm is confirmed, your physician will likely refer you to a cardiothoracic or vascular surgeon. If caught early, aneurysms can be removed surgically and patients can make a full recovery.

Next Steps

If you’re in need of a surgical consult for an aortic aneurysm, the cardiothoracic surgeons and vascular surgeons at Georgia Heart Institute are here to help. Our team can guide you through the entire process, from diagnosis to surgery and recovery.