Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm (cont.)
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.
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.
In this Article
- Abdominal aortic aneurysm facts
- What is an aneurysm?
- What is an aortic aneurysm?
- What is the thoracic and abdominal aorta?
- Where do aortic aneurysms tend to develop?
- What shape are most aortic aneurysms?
- What is inside an aortic aneurysm?
- Who is most likely to have an abdominal aortic aneurysm?
- What are risk factors of aortic aneurysms?
- What is the most common cause of aortic aneurysms?
- What are other causes of aortic aneurysms?
- What are the symptoms of an abdominal aortic aneurysm?
- How is an abdominal aortic aneurysm diagnosed clinically?
- What tests help in the diagnosis of an abdominal aortic aneurysm?
- What is the natural history of abdominal aortic aneurysm?
- What are the complications with an abdominal aortic aneurysm?
- How are abdominal aortic aneurysms repaired?
- What is done if an abdominal aortic aneurysm threatens to rupture?
- What is the medical management (nonsurgical management) of abdominal aortic aneurysm?
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:
- Cigarette smoking: This not only increases the risk of developing an abdominal aortic aneurysm, but also increases the risk of aneurysm rupture. Aortic rupture is a life-threatening event where blood escapes the aorta and the patient can quickly bleed to death.
- High blood pressure
- Elevated blood cholesterol levels
- Diabetes mellitus
What is the most common cause of aortic aneurysms?
The most common cause of aortic aneurysms is "hardening of the arteries" called arteriosclerosis. At least 80% of aortic aneurysms are from 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.
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