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An aortic aneurysm (AA) occurs when a weak area of the aorta, the main artery that carries blood from the heart in the chest or abdomen, expands or bulges. It can occur in different areas, including the chest (thoracic AA), the abdomen (abdominal AA), or both (thoracoabdominal AA). Aneurysms can also form in the peripheral arteries in the legs.

Risk Factors

  • History of smoking.
  • Family history of aortic aneurysm.
  • High blood pressure.
  • High cholesterol.
  • Atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries).


The main symptom associated with aortic aneurysm is pain in the affected region. Thoracic AA causes pain in the chest or upper back, and Abdominal AA results in pain in the abdomen or lower back. Unfortunately, most aortic aneurysms are silent and do not cause any symptoms until it is too late. Rupture of an aortic aneurysm is often fatal. The key to treatment is early diagnosis and treatment before complications develop. Your healthcare team can perform screening for abdominal aortic aneurysms in qualified patients, and this service is covered by Medicare.

Other Types of Aneurysms

Aneurysms can also occur in the brain (cerebral aneurysm), in the groin (femoral aneurysm), or behind the knee (popliteal aneurysm). A stroke can occur when a cerebral aneurysm ruptures. Popliteal aneurysms can often be felt as a pulsatile bulge behind the knee. Aneurysms can also be caused by serious infections. Specific treatment is determined by your physician, based on your particular medical history and the size and location of the aneurysm.


The most effective way to prevent aneurysms is to reduce associated risk factors such as:

  • Smoking.
  • High blood pressure.
  • High cholesterol.
  • For more information about aortic and other types of aneurysms, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

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