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What is Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm

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An abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) occurs when the lower part of the aorta is enlarged. The aorta is the major blood vessel that supplies the blood to the body. An abdominal aortic aneurysm usually causes no symptoms unless it expands or ruptures. The condition usually results from the degeneration of the inside part of the wall of the aorta. The force of the blood that is pumped thru the “weak” blood vessels causes it to dilate and bulge. Although aneurysms can occur elsewhere in the body, it commonly affects the aorta. Abdominal aortic aneurysms are relatively common and is a potentially life threatening condition.

Symptoms of abdominal aortic aneurysm

Abdominal aortic aneurysm

Abdominal pain

Abdominal aortic aneurysm is usually asymptomatic and may be detected incidentally while being tested for other reasons. The expanding condition causes a sudden, severe and constant low back pain, flank, and abdominal pain before it ruptures. Isolated groin pain occurs when there is expansion on the back of your peritoneal cavity that compresses your right or left femoral nerve. Other symptoms of AAA are early satiety, nausea, vomiting, urinary symptoms, or venous thrombosis from venous compression. In some cases, you may have the feeling of fainting (syncope) and feels a pulsating mass somewhere in your abdomen.

What are the risks of abdominal aortic aneurysm?

When you have an abdominal aortic aneurysm, you have to ensure that it does not rupture. The wall of the aneurysm is weaker as compared to the walls of your other blood vessels and it might not withstand the pressure of the blood inside. If it ruptures, massive internal bleeding occurs that may lead to shock and small blood clots that may cause obstruction of the blood flow to the other parts of the body.

The chances of rupture of abdominal aortic aneurysm increase as its size also increases. Rupture may cause fatal effects, thus you have to watch out for the following symptoms:

  • Sudden, intense and persistent abdominal or back pain
  • Pain that radiates to your back and legs
  • Sweatiness
  • Clamminess
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Low blood pressure
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Shortness of breath

Shock is the most common complication of abdominal aortic aneurysm rupture. Knowing what to do and having a first aid skill may help you assist anyone having a shock after having a ruptured aneurysm. When shock occurs, call 911 immediately and keep the person warm and comfortable. Check for circulation and breathing and apply CPR immediately when the person loses consciousness or stopped breathing. Getting treatment prior to the rupture can result in better prognosis as compared when the rupture already occurs which may result in a life threatening condition.

References:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Division of Heart Disease and Stroke. Aortic Aneurysm fact sheet. Retrieved on July 1, 2014 from http://www.cdc.gov/dhdsp/data_statistics/fact_sheets/fs_aortic_aneurysm.htm.

MedlinePlus. Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm. Retrieved on July 1, 2014 from http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000162.htm.

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