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What are the symptoms of an abdominal aortic aneurysm?

Most abdominal aortic aneurysms produce no symptoms (they are asymptomatic) and are discovered incidentally when an imaging test of the abdomen (CT scan or ultrasound) is performed. They can also be detected by physical examination when the health care professional feels the abdomen and listens for a bruit, the sound made by turbulent blood flow.

Pain is the most common symptom when the aneurysm expands or ruptures. It often begins in the central abdomen and radiates to the back or flank. Other symptoms can occur depending upon where the aneurysm is located in the aorta and whether nearby structures are affected.

Abdominal aortic aneurysms can remain asymptomatic or produce minimal symptoms for years. However, a rapidly expanding abdominal aneurysm can cause sudden onset of severe, steady, and worsening middle abdominal and back or flank pain. Rupture of an abdominal aortic aneurysm can be catastrophic, even lethal, and is associated with abdominal distension, a pulsating abdominal mass, and shock due to massive blood loss.

Return to Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm

See what others are saying

Comment from: wjh876, 65-74 Male (Patient) Published: September 29

I am a 66 year old male and was a smoker. On 8/2/16 I was going to the bathroom and felt the sharpest pain I've ever felt in my lower back. I broke out in a cold sweat and my wife called 911. When the ambulance got here they thought I was passing a kidney stone. On the way to the hospital it felt like my stomach was filling up. I got to the emergency room (ER) and they did a scan and found out that my abdominal aortic aneurysm had ruptured. They gave me two shots of morphine and the last thing I remember was the doctor saying, 'we'll do what we can.' Fortunately there was a vascular surgeon at the ER. I had an open surgery and came close to death several times. I was in ICU for three weeks and in the first few days they had to go back in a few times to handle bleeding and to keep the wound clean. They didn't close me up till the third day. My kidneys shut down and I was on dialysis for 6 weeks. My kidneys fortunately came back! I was released after about two months. I am so lucky and grateful to be alive as the survival rate for a rupture is 1to 3 percent. The doctors said it was miraculous that I survived the operation, and the consequent risk of heart attack or stroke in the week that followed. I can't say enough for my surgeon and the staff of nurses and caregivers. I should have died, but here I am. Recovery has been long and arduous. I lost a lot of muscle mass. It's been a little over a year now and I still have some weaknesses, but am playing golf once a week. My HMO (hospital medical officer) now provides a onetime screening as part of their preventive medicine for free for those 65 and over. I would advise those of you who might have this perk to take advantage. I think it is covered by Medicare. And I would also advise screenings if this kind of thing runs in your family.

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Comment from: Runnergirl, 45-54 Female (Patient) Published: April 26

I had a bad mountain bike accident almost 2 years ago. I had a CT scan done to look for a fracture in my hip. There was no fracture but they found a 3.4 cm infrarenal abdominal aortic aneurysm. I get ultrasounds every six months. Last week my ultrasound showed that the aneurysm had grown. I am scheduled for another CT scan in 2 weeks. I am a 51 years old female, very healthy and athletic. I am training for another marathon. I have done 6 ironman triathlons. I swim, dance, box, yoga, bike, and do Pilates. I am a fitness trainer and sports nutritionist. Get checked and best of luck!

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Comment from: Demetri, 75 or over Male Published: March 08

Somewhere around June 3rd of 2010 I had a blood vessel in my brain burst. I thought I had heat stroke and went to bed with a severe headache. I stayed in bed for 3 days, my ex-wife came to check on me (we're still friends) and found me unconscious. I apparently asked her to take me to a doc-in-the-box, but she thought that it was more serious than that, so she took me to the hospital. They did an MRI and found the bleeding brain aneurysm, and I was immediately taken to surgery where the doctors clipped it off. Three days later I had a massive stroke, then 6 months later I had an epileptic seizure. I am lucky to be alive. I have lost 30 percent of the strength on my right side, but I am back in college in the paralegal field.

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