Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm

Condition 101

What is the definition of Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm?

The aorta is the main blood vessel that supplies blood to the abdomen, pelvis, and legs. An abdominal aortic aneurysm occurs when an area of the aorta becomes very large or balloons out.

What are the alternative names for Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm?

Aneurysm - aortic; AAA

What are the causes for Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm?

The exact cause of an aneurysm is unknown. It occurs due to weakness in the wall of the artery. Factors that can increase your risk of having this problem include:

  • Smoking
  • High blood pressure
  • Male gender
  • Genetic factors

An abdominal aortic aneurysm is most often seen in males over age 60 who have one or more risk factors. The larger the aneurysm, the more likely it is to break open or tear. This can be life threatening.

What are the symptoms for Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm?

Aneurysms can develop slowly over many years, often with no symptoms. Symptoms may come on quickly if the aneurysm expands rapidly, tears open or leaks blood within the wall of the vessel (aortic dissection).

Symptoms of rupture include:

  • Pain in the abdomen or back. The pain may be severe, sudden, persistent, or constant. It may spread to the groin, buttocks, or legs.
  • Passing out.
  • Clammy skin.
  • Dizziness.
  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Rapid heart rate.
  • Shock.

What are the current treatments for Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm?

If you have bleeding inside your body from an aortic aneurysm, you will need surgery right away.

If the aneurysm is small and there are no symptoms:

  • Surgery is rarely done.
  • You and your provider must decide if the risk of having surgery is smaller than the risk of bleeding if you do not have surgery.
  • Your provider may want to check the size of the aneurysm with ultrasound tests every 6 months.

Most of the time, surgery is done if the aneurysm is bigger than 2 inches (5 centimeters) across or growing quickly. The goal is to do surgery before complications develop.

There are two types of surgery:

  • Open repair - A large cut is made in your abdomen. The abnormal vessel is replaced with a graft made of man-made material.
  • Endovascular stent grafting - This procedure can be done without making a large cut in your abdomen, so you may recover more quickly. This may be a safer approach if you have certain other medical problems or are an older adult. Endovascular repair can sometimes be done for a leaking or bleeding aneurysm.

What is the outlook (prognosis) for Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm?

The outcome is often good if you have surgery to repair the aneurysm before it ruptures.

When an abdominal aortic aneurysm begins to tear or ruptures, it is a medical emergency. Only about 1 in 5 people survive a ruptured abdominal aneurysm.

When should I contact a medical professional for Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm?

Go to the emergency room or call 911 if you have pain in your belly or back that is very bad or does not go away.

How do I prevent Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm?

To reduce the risk of aneurysms:

  • Eat a heart-healthy diet, exercise, stop smoking (if you smoke), and reduce stress.
  • If you have high blood pressure or diabetes, take your medicines as your provider has told you.

People over age 65 who have ever smoked should have a screening ultrasound done once.


Braverman AC, Schermerhorn M. Diseases of the aorta. In: Zipes DP, Libby P, Bonow RO, Mann, DL, Tomaselli GF, Braunwald E, eds. Braunwald's Heart Disease: A Textbook of Cardiovascular Medicine. 11th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2019:chap 63.

Colwell CB, Fox CJ. Abdominal aortic aneurysm. In: Walls RM, Hockberger RS, Gausche-Hill M, eds. Rosen's Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2018:chap 76.

LeFevre ML; U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. Screening for abdominal aortic aneurysm: U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommendation statement. Ann Intern Med. 2014;161(4):281-290. PMID: 24957320

Woo EW, Damrauer SM. Abdominal aortic aneurysms: open surgical treatment. In: Sidawy AN, Perler BA, eds. Rutherford's Vascular Surgery and Endovascular Therapy. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2019:chap 71.

Latest Research

Latest Advance
  • Condition: Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm (AAA) During COVID-19 Pandemic
  • Journal: Journal of vascular surgery
  • Treatment Used: Surgery
  • Number of Patients: 0
  • Published —
This study analyzed the decision to delay abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) repair during the COVID-19 pandemic and quantified the potential for harm.
Latest Advance
  • Condition: Ruptured Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm and COVID-19
  • Journal: Annals of vascular surgery
  • Treatment Used: Endovascular Repair
  • Number of Patients: 1
  • Published —
This case report describes a patient with COVID-19 that experienced a ruptured abdominal aortic aneurysm and was treated using endovascular repair.
Latest Advance
  • Condition: Acute Thrombosis of Aortic Prosthetic Graft in Patient with Severe COVID-19 Related Pneumonia
  • Journal: Annals of vascular surgery
  • Treatment Used: Revascularization
  • Number of Patients: 1
  • Published —
This case report discusses a patient with COVID19-related pneumonia, who suffered from the acute thrombosis (clotting) of a previously implanted aortic graft.

Clinical Trials

Clinical Trial
  • Status: Recruiting
  • Study Type: Device
  • Participants: 15
  • Start Date: August 2020
Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm Sac Healing and Prevention of Endoleaks - A Prospective Single Center Safety Study
Clinical Trial
  • Status: Active, not recruiting
  • Study Type: Other
  • Participants: 905
  • Start Date: April 23, 2020
Post Discharge After Surgery Virtual Care With Remote Automated Monitoring Technology (PVC-RAM) Trial
Clinical Trial
  • Status: Recruiting
  • Participants: 30
  • Start Date: March 6, 2020
Study of Thrombotic Complications After Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm Surgery With or Without Infection: AAA-IT