Weakened Abdominal Aorta

Aorta is the largest artery in the body and carries blood away from your heart to the rest of the human body. Weakening of the aortic wall can lead to enlargement of the artery, also known as aneurysm. The most common aortic disorder is abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA). AAA is the 10th-leading cause of death in the United States.

Risks for developing aortic aneurysms include:

  • Age (especially over 60)
  • Male gender
  • Smoking
  • Family history of aneurysm

Aortic Aneurysm Symptoms, Diagnosis and Outlook

Often people with AAA don’t experience any symptoms. Aneurysms can grow very slowly, but when they rupture, they can be life-threatening.

If you have an enlarging AAA, the symptoms may include:

  • A throbbing, pulse-like feeling near your belly button
  • Back pain
  • Intense pain in your abdomen

If you are at risk, you should quit smoking, control your blood pressure, eat a healthy diet and exercise regularly. If you or anyone in your immediate family has a known history of aortic aneurysms, you should notify your primary care physician about it. Diameter of normal aorta in adults is about 2 centimeters. For aneurysms with aortic diameter less than 5 centimeters, doctors follow the patients with serial imaging studies. If your aorta enlarges to over 5 centimeters, surgery is needed to repair the weak aortic wall. A simple ultrasound will confirm if you have an enlarged aorta, and a CT scan will accurately measure the size of the enlargement. If found and treated early, a ruptured aortic aneurysm is avoidable.

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Why Choose Penn State Health for Care

Advanced Expertise, Expert Care

The team of aortic disease experts at Penn State Health provides the most advanced care available in the region. We have the most experienced vascular team in central Pennsylvania and the largest vascular surgery group in the region.

Our medical team is consistently recognized nationally through Best Doctors in America and America’s Top Doctors awards. Our specialists also train future vascular surgeons and are one of only 50 training programs in the United States.

Comprehensive Care for Aortic Disease

If you suffer from aortic disease, you likely have other chronic health conditions. We work closely with your other physicians to make sure you have a complete care plan, personalized for your health needs. Our vascular surgeons, cardiologists, radiologists and researchers have decades of experience managing and treating aortic disease. We offer comprehensive treatment options, including medical management, endovascular procedures, minimally invasive surgery and open surgical options.

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