The aorta is the largest artery in the body which carries oxygenated blood from the heart to the body. The portion of artery which lies deep inside the abdomen is called the abdominal aorta. An aneurysm is a weakened, bulging area in the wall of aorta.
The aorta is under constant pressure as blood is expelled from the heart. With each heartbeat, the walls of the aorta expand and then spring back, exerting pressure on the vessel wall. Over time the wall of the artery may become weak and the pressure from the blood pumping through causes the wall to bulge out, usually at a weak spot in the wall of the blood vessel. The weakening and the bulging of the abdominal wall artery is called Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm (AAA or “triple A”).
Abdominal aortic aneurysm develops slowly over time and the exact causes of the degenerative process remain unclear. The vast majority of aneurysms cause no noticeable symptoms, although occasionally they cause pain in the abdomen or pain in the chest, lower back (due to pressure on surrounding tissues) or in the legs (due to disturbed blood flow). The major complication of abdominal aortic aneurysms is rupture (aneurysm bursting), which is life-threatening, as large amounts of blood spill into the abdominal cavity, and can lead to death within minutes if medical help is not sought immediately.
Should an aneurysm expand rapidly, tear, or leak, the following symptoms may develop suddenly:
- intense and persistent abdominal or back pain that may radiate to the buttocks and legs
- sweating and clamminess
- nausea and vomiting
- rapid heart rate
- shortness of breath