A weakened portion of the aorta that occurs within the abdomen produces an abdominal aortic aneurysm. The aneurysm develops in several forms. A balloon--like swelling of the arterial wall commonly occurs just below the level of the arteries to the kidneys. A dissecting aneurysm, where the wall of the artery is split apart, more commonly begins within the chest, but may continue down to the level of the abdomen and beyond. A rupture of the aneurysm is a life threatening condition, leading to rapid blood loss from the vascular system. Dissection of the aorta may develop and can gradually occlude vessels originating from that segment of the aorta. Decreased or absent blood flow to the various abdominal organs, or the spinal cord, can occur.
Causes of Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm
The majority of abdominal aneurysms are caused by atherosclerosis. Here fatty deposits within the arterial wall leads to its degeneration. In addition, the muscular part of the aorta's wall may be damaged or defective. This may lead to dissection of the aorta.
Hypertension is known to accelerate the atherosclerosis and damage to the aorta's wall. Trauma, certain diseases such as syphilis and some congenital conditions, such as Marfan's syndrome, can also lead to aortic aneurysms.
Signs and Symptoms of Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm
Sometimes, a pulsating mass may be felt within the abdomen. This is more common in people over 60 years of age. History of smoking and of vascular disease is commonly present.
Severe back pain and abdominal pain may develop. The legs may become cold or discolored from a blood clot dislodged from the aneurysm. Vascular disease affecting the intestines can lead to intestinal claudication. Here, the blood supply to the intestines is diminished, and abdominal pain, swelling, and bloody diarrhea can occur.
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Medical Content Last Updated on 07/12/2008
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