Abdominal Aorta FunctionIts function is to deliver blood from the heart throughout the body. It circulates blood down through the chest and abdomen. Smaller arteries branch off the artery to the different organs and systems of the body.
Enlargement/WeakeningIf it becomes weak or expands in size, the condition is known as an aortic aneurysm. This condition can cause severe abdominal pain, back pain, sciatica and can lead to artery leakage or rupture. This is when it becomes an emergency. Being the largest blood vessel in the body means that a rupture can cause life-threatening bleeding. Aneurysms can develop anywhere on the artery, but most occur in the abdomen portion. Depending on the size and growth rate, treatment/therapies can vary from observation to emergency surgery. Abdominal aneurysms usually progress slowly without symptoms, making them difficult to detect. However, some abdominal aneurysms never rupture. They can start small and remain the same size while others can expand over time, and others faster.
RuptureA weakened aorta can develop a leak known as a rupture. Blood can also begin to accumulate and pool up between layers in the arterial walls can also lead to rupture known as a dissection. Internal bleeding is the primary complication of an abdominal aneurysm. Loss of blood is considered a potentially fatal medical emergency. Mortality rates increase when the artery leaks. The risk for rupture depends on the:
SizeAneurysms that are smaller than 5 cm in diameter are considered a low risk for rupture. Aneurysms larger than 5 cm are considered high risk. The size is often the best predictor for predicting the chance of rupture.
Growth RateExpansion of more than half a centimeter over 6 months is considered accelerated growth and is a high risk. A faster growth rate has been seen in individuals that smoke or have high blood pressure. Abdominal pain, lower back pain, sciatica, or other symptoms usually do not present until the artery has ruptured. However, a significantly expanded aneurysm, symptoms similar to a rupture can occur.
SymptomsIn most cases, the aneurysm develops slowly with no symptoms or minor symptoms like a nagging/gnawing or throbbing sensation in or around the abdomen. This type of aneurysm can be detected from a standard physical exam or from the monitoring of another condition. Symptoms depend on the location and can include some combination of the following:
- Deep, constant pain in the abdomen or on the side. It could also be a stabbing pain deep inside that is felt between the sternum and the belly button. The pain can be continuous with no relief from rest or adjusting positions. Severe pain can cause individuals to bend over and down.
- Difficulty standing or the ability to straighten the upper body.
- Low back pain caused by the abdominal pain radiating/spreading out into the lower spine from the aorta’s closeness to the spine. The pain can also spread to the groin, pelvis, and legs.
- Sciatica symptoms typically come from low back pain.
- A pulse near or around the bellybutton. Tenderness, along with a pulsing sensation can be felt. The pulse can be felt through the skin and could be sensitive to touch or pressure.
- Blood loss will result in low blood pressure, known as hypotension. This causes lightheadedness, dizziness, nausea/vomiting, blurred vision, and confusion. Symptoms are exacerbated when standing generating the feeling for the need to sit or lie down.
- Shock symptoms from the internal bleeding. This includes:
- Sudden and rapid heartbeat
- Shallow breathing
- Clammy skin
- Cold sweats
- General weakness
- Loss of consciousness
CausesVarious causes can be involved in developing an abdominal aneurysm, including:
- Hardening of the arteries known as atherosclerosis. It happens when fat along with other substances build up on the lining of blood vessel/s.
- High blood pressure can damage and weaken the walls of the aorta.
- Blood vessel diseases can cause blood vessel inflammation.
- Aortic infection is rare but a bacterial or fungal infection could cause an abdominal aneurysm.
- Trauma like being in an automobile accident can cause an aneurysm.
Risk FactorsThe pathology principally stays asymptomatic until a rupture occurs. This pathology affects mostly men with quite a few risk factors. Risk factors include:
- Men develop abdominal aneurysms more often than women.
- Smoking is the strongest risk factor. It weakens the aortic walls and increases the risk of developing an aneurysm, and rupture. The longer an individual smokes or chews tobacco, the higher the chances.
- Individuals aged 65 and older are the most targeted group for this condition.
- A family history of abdominal aneurysms increases the risk.
- Aneurysm in another blood vessel, like the artery behind the knee or the chest aortic region, could increase the risk.
Sciatic Nerve CompressionSciatica is usually caused by compression on the nerve. Spinal and non-spinal disorders are known to cause pain include:
- Low back misaligned vertebral body/s
- Herniated/bulging/slipped discs
- Spinal tumors
- Sitting too long