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What is an abdominal aortic aneurysm?

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Quick Answer

An abdominal aortic aneurysm is an enlarged area in the lower portion of the aorta, which is an artery that carries the main supply of blood in the body, explains Mayo Clinic. A major risk of a large aneurysm is rupture and life-threatening internal bleeding.

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Full Answer

Some abdominal aortic aneurysms remain small, and others gradually increase in size until they cause symptoms that include pulsation around the navel area, deep abdominal pain or discomfort, and back pain, according to Mayo Clinic. Smoking is an important risk factor for this condition, and abdominal ultrasound screening is recommended for all men who are older than 60 years of age with a history of smoking.

The treatment of an abdominal aortic aneurysm depends on the size of the enlargement, notes Mayo Clinic. Surgery is recommended for an aneurysm that is larger than 2.2 inches in diameter or when it grows more than 0.2 inch in 6 months. Patients with aneurysms that leak or cause pain also require surgery.

Aneurysms that are smaller than 1.6 inches in diameter and do not cause symptoms are usually monitored with an ultrasound every 6 to 12 months, explains Mayo Clinic. Aneurysms that are between 1.6 to 2.1 inches in diameter may require treatment, and the risks and benefits of surgery are discussed with the patient.

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