Aortic aneurysm symptoms and diagnosis

Symptoms of an aortic aneursym

Aneurysms usually develop very slowly over time, making them difficult to detect. Many people may not be aware they have an aneurysm developing. Symptoms of an aortic aneurysm can vary with the location of the aneurysm:

  • In thoracic aortic aneurysm, symptoms are apparent in just half of all cases. Patients may experience chest pain or back pain that continues to the jaw, neck or upper back. Warning signs also can include coughing, hoarseness, or difficulty breathing.
  • In abdominal aortic aneurysm, a patient may feel ongoing pain in the back, abdomen or groin. Likewise, a physician may notice a pulsating enlargement or tender mass when performing a physical examination.

If you are experiencing the aortic aneurysm symptoms, see your doctor immediately. Detecting aneurysm early will reduce the likelihood of life-threatening rupture.

If you have a family history of aortic aneurysm, or a genetic connective tissue disorder such as Marfan syndrome, you may require preventive ultrasound screenings by your physicians.

Aortic aneurysm diagnosis

As aortic aneurysms frequently don’t exhibit symptoms, they often are discovered during a periodic physical examination or during an examination for another health concern. A routine chest X-ray, for example, may show a large aneurysm.

If you appear to have an aneurysm, further testing may be ordered to determine its size and location. These tests include CT scans, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), transesophageal echocardiogram (TEE), abdominal ultrasound and angiography. Learn more about these and other diagnostic heart tests performed at HonorHealth.

A small aneurysm may require a watch-and-wait approach. Your physician may want to have imaging tests performed regularly to monitor changes in the aneurysm's size and plan for future surgical intervention. Typically, an aortic aneurysm will not be operated on unless it:

  • Has reached a size of 5.0 centimeters.
  • Is more than twice the size of the normal aorta.
  • Is growing rapidly.
  • Is causing pain or showing signs of rupture.

In the meantime, you may be prescribed blood pressure medication to ensure that undue pressure is not placed on the weakened area of the aorta. You may need to limit physical activities such as heavy lifting.

Learn about aortic aneurysm surgery.