Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm

  • Medical Author:
    Benjamin Wedro, MD, FACEP, FAAEM

    Dr. Ben Wedro practices emergency medicine at Gundersen Clinic, a regional trauma center in La Crosse, Wisconsin. His background includes undergraduate and medical studies at the University of Alberta, a Family Practice internship at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario and residency training in Emergency Medicine at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Where do aortic aneurysms tend to develop?

Aortic aneurysms can develop anywhere along the length of the aorta but the majority are located in the abdominal aorta. Most of these abdominal aneurysms are located below the level of the renal arteries, the vessels that provide blood to the kidneys. Abdominal aortic aneurysms can extend into the iliac arteries.

What shape are most aortic aneurysms?

Most aortic aneurysms are fusiform. They are shaped like a spindle ("fusus" means spindle in Latin) with widening all around the circumference of the aorta. (Saccular aneurysms just involve a portion of the aortic wall with a localized out pocketing).

What is inside an aortic aneurysm?

The inside walls of aneurysms are often lined with a blood clot that forms because there is stagnant blood. The wall of an aneurysm is layered, like a piece of plywood.

Who is most likely to have an abdominal aortic aneurysm?

Abdominal aortic aneurysms tend to occur in white males over the age of 60. In the United States, these aneurysms occur in up to 3.0% of the population. Aneurysms start to form at about age 50 and peak at age 80. Women are less likely to have aneurysms than men and African Americans are less likely to have aneurysms than Caucasians.

There is a genetic component that predisposes one to developing an aneurysm; the prevalence in someone who has a first-degree relative with the condition can be as high as 25%.

Collagen vascular diseases that can weaken the tissues of the aortic walls are also associated with aortic aneurysms. These diseases include Marfan syndrome and Ehlers-Danlos syndrome.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 10/30/2015

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