Aortic Aneurysm


The aorta is the body’s largest blood vessel, measuring more than an inch wide in some places. It carries oxygen-rich blood from your heart to the rest of the body. Although your aorta is a durable pipeline, its walls can weaken and bulge – much like water under pressure can create a bulge in a worn garden hose. This bulge is called an aortic aneurysm.

In some instances, the bulge can burst and spill blood into the wrong places. Other times, a bulge can force blood to flow away from your organs and tissues, and cause a heart attack, kidney damage or a stroke.

There are two types of aortic aneurysms. In the belly area they are called an abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA). A thoracic aortic aneurysm occurs in the chest or upper body.

You might not know you have an aneurysm. Symptoms often don’t show up until the bulge becomes large or breaks open. But as it grows, you may notice:

  • Chest or back pain
  • Difficulty breathing or swallowing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Coughing
  • Hoarseness
  • Deep pain on the side of your abdomen
  • Throbbing sensation near your navel

If you have symptoms, a family history of aneurysms, or if you smoke, talk to your Mercy primary care doctor. As needed, your doctor has quick and easy access to the very best Mercy heart and vascular specialists, diagnostic tools and treatments. We are all working together to keep your heart healthy and active.

How is an Aortic Aneurysm Diagnosed?

Your doctor can sometimes detect an aneurysm during a routine exam. If an aneurysm is suspected, your doctor might order an ultrasound, a CT or MRI scan.

How is an Aortic Aneurysm Treated?

Treatment is based on how big and how fast an aneurysm is growing.

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