What is an Aortic Aneurysm?
Learn more about what an aortic aneurysm is, what the symptoms are and potential risk factors from Dr. Andi Peshkepija, vascular surgeon.
An aortic aneurysm is a weakened area that bulges from the wall of the aorta, the body’s largest artery. An aortic aneurysm can grow and possibly burst, causing life-threatening bleeding. Early diagnosis and proper treatment can manage aneurysms to reduce the risk of rupture.
Vascular disease specialists at Henry Ford Health have exceptional skills and experience in managing aortic aneurysms, no matter how complex. Our treatments range from medications and lifestyle changes to minimally invasive procedures and open surgery, keeping you as healthy as possible.
The Multidisciplinary Aorta Program is one of only two programs in southeast and south central Michigan dedicated to aortic disease. Our vascular and cardiac specialists have advanced training and expertise in all types of treatment for aortic aneurysms.
People come to us for our:
The aorta is the body’s largest artery, carrying oxygen-rich blood from the heart to the body through smaller arteries. Beginning at the heart, the aorta leads upward, then curves into an arch and travels back down through the chest and abdomen to the pelvis.
An aneurysm happens when weakness in a section of artery wall causes it to bulge outward. If the weakened area continues to enlarge, it becomes thin and can burst, causing severe internal bleeding.
Aortic aneurysms are described according to where they develop along the aorta:
If left untreated, aortic aneurysms can lead to:
Aortic aneurysms can develop from several possible causes. The causes can vary depending on where the aneurysm occurs.
Certain factors can increase your risk of an aortic aneurysm. These factors include:
Because aortic aneurysms usually develop slowly over many years, you may not experience symptoms at first. Some aneurysms stay small, while others expand, sometimes quickly. As aortic aneurysms expand, the risk of rupture grows.
Symptoms that occur with aneurysms in the upper aorta include:
Aneurysms in the lower aorta have some different symptoms, such as:
Certain symptoms might mean that an aortic aneurysm has ruptured. Seek emergency medical care if you experience:
If you have a small aneurysm, you may not experience noticeable symptoms. Often, your doctor finds an aortic aneurysm during a routine exam or on an imaging study for another condition.
If your parent or sibling had an aortic aneurysm, get a screening test. Henry Ford’s certified imaging technologists provide advanced imaging to check for aortic aneurysms.
At the Multidisciplinary Aorta Program, our vascular team has advanced training and years of experience. You’ll receive care from one of the few programs in Michigan offering the full range of options.
We treat people with all types of aortic aneurysms, using medications, monitoring, minimally invasive procedures and open surgery. Working closely with you, our vascular team uses the least invasive treatments that provide you with the longest-lasting results.
The main treatment goal for an aortic aneurysm is to prevent a rupture or dissection. For a small, stable aneurysm, we typically begin your treatment with lifestyle changes and medications. Our vascular medicine and cardiologists offer conservative treatment options that include:
You can help slow the condition’s progress and improve the way you feel with small changes toward a healthier lifestyle. Our vascular medicine specialists and cardiologists have years of experience helping people develop realistic goals to:
You can work with us one-on-one, or we can refer you to Henry Ford programs such as:
Depending on your specific needs, our vascular medicine specialists and cardiologists prescribe medications such as:
Large (about 2 inches) or fast-growing aneurysms require either a minimally invasive procedure or open surgery for repair.
Our surgeons use catheters (thin, flexible tubes) and miniature instruments to provide minimally invasive procedures, using just a needle puncture or tiny incision. The procedures take an endovascular approach, meaning work is done inside blood vessels.
Read more about your endovascular options:
Some aortic aneurysms may need open surgery to repair. Learn more about aortic disease treatments using open surgery.
You’ll see our vascular medicine specialists and cardiologists for follow-up and long-term monitoring after surgery or a procedure. We make sure that your blood pressure is under control and adjust your medications as necessary.