Merck Manual

Please confirm that you are not located inside the Russian Federation

honeypot link
Quick Facts

Abdominal Aortic Aneurysms


The Manual's Editorial Staff

Last full review/revision Apr 2021| Content last modified Apr 2021
Click here for the Professional Version
Get the full details
Topic Resources

What is an abdominal aortic aneurysm?

The aorta is the main blood vessel (artery) that carries blood away from your heart to the rest of your body. An aneurysm is a bulge in an artery wall. An abdominal aortic aneurysm is a bulge in the part of your aorta that passes through your belly.

  • Aneurysms may cause a pulsing feeling in your belly

  • Aneurysms that are large or are growing need surgery to prevent them from bursting

  • If the aneurysm bursts, blood flows out and you have severe pain and low blood pressure

  • If the aneurysm bursts, you'll die if you don't have surgery

  • Doctors often find an aneurysm during a regular exam or from an imaging test (such as an x-ray or CT scan) taken for another problem and found by accident

You're more likely to have an abdominal aortic aneurysm if:

  • You're a man

  • You're between the ages of 50 and 80

  • Someone in your family had one

  • You have high blood pressure

  • You smoke

What causes an abdominal aortic aneurysm?

What are the symptoms of an abdominal aortic aneurysm?

Many people have no symptoms.

Symptoms of an abdominal aortic aneurysm include:

  • A pulsing feeling in your belly

  • Strong pain in your back even though you didn't hurt yourself

If your aneurysm bursts, symptoms include:

You'll die if your aneurysm bursts and you don't get treatment.

How can doctors tell if I have an abdominal aortic aneurysm?

How do doctors treat an abdominal aortic aneurysm?

Doctors will check on the size of your aneurysm about every 3 to 6 months.

If your aneurysm is smaller than about 2 inches wide, doctors may have you:

  • Avoid smoking

  • Take blood pressure medicine

If you have a larger aneurysm, you'll need surgery.


Doctors may do surgery to insert a tube (graft) into your aorta to repair the aneurysm. Two types of surgery are possible. The doctor may cut open your belly to insert the graft. Or the doctor may put the graft in your aorta by going through an artery in the upper part of your leg. Which type of surgery you have depends on your age, health, and what part of the aorta your aneurysm is in.

If your aneurysm bursts or is about to burst, emergency surgery to fix it may save your life. Without surgery, you'll die.

NOTE: This is the Consumer Version. DOCTORS: Click here for the Professional Version
Click here for the Professional Version
Others also read
Test your knowledge
Postpartum Depression
Postpartum depression is a feeling of extreme sadness and related psychologic disturbances after delivery of a baby. Although it is common to feel sad or miserable within 3 days of delivery (the baby blues), these feelings usually go away within 2 weeks. Postpartum depression is a more serious mood change. Women in which of the following groups are at increased risk for this condition?
Download the Manuals App iOS ANDROID
Download the Manuals App iOS ANDROID
Download the Manuals App iOS ANDROID

Also of Interest

Download the Manuals App iOS ANDROID
Download the Manuals App iOS ANDROID
Download the Manuals App iOS ANDROID