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.

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What are risk factors for aortic aneurysms?

The risk factors for aortic aneurysm are the same as those for atherosclerotic heart disease, stroke, and peripheral artery disease and include:

What is the most common cause of aortic aneurysms?

The most common cause of aortic aneurysms is "hardening of the arteries" called arteriosclerosis. A majority of aortic aneurysms are caused by arteriosclerosis. The arteriosclerosis can weaken the aortic wall and the increased pressure of the blood being pumped through the aorta causes weakness of the inner layer of the aortic wall.

The aortic wall has three layers, the tunica adventitia, tunica media, and tunica intima. The layers add strength to the aorta as well as elasticity to tolerate changes in blood pressure. Chronically increased blood pressure causes the media layer to break down and leads to the continuous, slow dilation of the aorta.

Smoking is a major cause of aortic aneurysm. Studies have shown that the rate of aortic aneurysm has fallen at the same rate as population smoking rates.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 10/30/2015
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