Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm – Symptoms & Treatments | MedStar Health

Specialized treatment for this dangerous condition

An abdominal aortic aneurysm is a specific type of aortic aneurysm in the abdomen, or belly. An aortic aneurysm is an enlargement of the aorta, the body’s largest artery. The aorta runs from the chest through the abdomen and carries blood from the heart to the rest of the body.

Like any aneurysm, this condition develops due to a weakening of a blood vessel—in this case, the aorta. Many factors can cause this, including:

An abdominal aortic aneurysm that bursts can lead to major internal bleeding or death. Aneurysms that don’t burst can be dangerous if they grow large enough, as they pose a risk for bursting.

Our heart and vascular surgeons are well-equipped to treat this condition. We bring these experts together in our Complex Aortic Center, one of the few programs in the region that treats the most complex cases.

What are the symptoms of an abdominal aortic aneurysm?

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An abdominal aortic aneurysm can develop for years without causing any symptoms. You may not experience any noticeable symptoms unless the aneurysm bursts or grows large enough to block blood flow or press against other areas of the body.

Before a rupture, symptoms can include:

  • Pain in the back or side
  • Poor circulation in the feet
  • Steady pain in the belly that can last for hours or days
  • Throbbing in the belly
  • Stroke

If an abdominal aortic aneurysm ruptures, symptoms might include:

  • Clammy, sweaty skin
  • Dizziness, nausea and/or vomiting
  • Light-headedness
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Sudden, severe pain in the lower belly or back

Call 911 right away if you think you have an aneurysm that has burst.


Angiogram (Angiography)

An angiogram is a special X-ray taken as a special dye is injected through a thin, flexible tube called a catheter to detect blockages or aneurysms in blood vessels...

Abdominal Duplex Ultrasound

Abdominal duplex ultrasound is a combination of a traditional and Doppler ultrasound that assesses the blood vessels in your abdomen for blockages or aneurysms.

Chest X-ray

Chest X-rays use a small dose of radiation to create pictures of the structures inside the chest, including the lungs, heart, and chest wall.

Computerized Tomography (CT) Scan

The cardiac computed tomography scan, or cardiac CT, uses X-rays to create three-dimensional images of your heart and blood vessels.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

Magnetic resonance imaging, better known as cardiac MRI, is a combination of radio waves, magnets, and computer technology used to create images of your heart and blood vessels.


With regular monitoring, smaller aneurysms may not need treatment. For larger aneurysms, we offer a variety of traditional and minimally invasive surgical option.

Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm Treatments

Abdominal aortic aneurysm treatments include monitoring, medication, or surgery to place a graft that reduces pressure on the walls of the aorta where the aneurysm exists.

Ask MedStar Heart & Vascular Institute

Have general questions for our heart and vascular program? Email us at AskMHVI@medstar.net. If you have clinically-specific questions, please contact your physician’s office.