All About Abdominal Aortic Aneurysms

Abdominal aortic aneurysms (AAA) are common, with about 200,000 diagnosed cases in the US each year. An AAA is an enlarged area in the lower section of the aorta. The aorta is a major blood vessel, running from the heart through the abdomen. 

When abdominal aortic aneurysms rupture, it can be life-threatening. In fact, according to the Society for Vascular Surgery, ‘a ruptured AAA is the 15th leading cause of death in the country, and the 10th leading cause of death in men older than 55.’

AAAs run in families; patients are twelve times more likely to develop one if a first-degree relative has had one. Other factors that put you more at risk for developing this condition include the following:

  • Men aged 60+
  • Smoker
  • Caucasian


The majority of abdominal aortic aneurysms don’t cause any symptoms and are found while the patient is being evaluated for another condition. For those that do show symptoms, the following are common:

  • Deep, persistent pain in the abdomen or on the side of the abdomen
  • Back pain
  • A pulse near the belly button


The physicians at Vascular & Vein Institute of Siouxland use several methods to diagnose abdominal aortic aneurysms.

  • Abdominal ultrasound – A painless imaging test to screen for or measure the size of an AAA
  • Computed tomographic angiogram – An x-ray that allows your physician to determine the size and location of the aneurysm


The physicians at Vascular & Vein Institute of Siouxland will determine treatment methods on a case-by-case basis, often by the size of the AAA. For small AAAs, your physician may recommend ultrasound tests every 6-12 months, and certain lifestyle changes like daily exercise or quitting smoking.

For larger AAAs or ones that are growing rapidly, your physician may recommend a minimally invasive procedure. Endovascular aneurysm repair uses x-ray imaging and a catheter to reinforce the artery walls and exclude the aneurysm. This technique requires significantly less recovery time than open surgery.