YOUR HEALTH: Silent killer: Aortic aneurysm warning signs

It’s hard to spot an aortic aneurysm before it bursts, but there are some important signs to look out for.
Published: Jul. 24, 2023 at 7:50 AM CDT
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ORLANDO, Fla. (Ivanhoe Newswire) - More than 15,000 people die each year from a ruptured aortic aneurysm. An aortic aneurysm happens when a bulge develops in the major artery that carries blood from your heart to the rest of your body. It’s hard to spot an aortic aneurysm before it bursts, but as Ivanhoe reports, there are some important signs to look out for.

An aortic aneurysm is often dubbed a “ticking time bomb.” That’s because most people who have an abnormal bulge in their heart’s aorta don’t know it—until it bursts!

“The aorta doesn’t have pain fibers, so people don’t know that they already have an aneurysm, and they don’t know that their life is in danger. So, it’s really a silent assassin,” said Dr. Shahab Toursavadkohi, a vascular surgeon at University of Maryland Medical Center.

Nearly 75 percent of patients with a ruptured aneurysm will die. But at least 95 percent can be successfully treated if the aneurysm is detected before it bursts!

“As you can imagine, a rupture of a high-pressure piping inside your body can be very deadly,” said Dr. Toursavadkohi.

Usually, there are no symptoms before a rupture. But a few early warning signs of an aortic aneurysm include chest pain or tenderness, cough or hoarseness, shortness of breath, pain in the back, jaw, or neck, feeling full after small meals, or trouble swallowing. You are at a higher risk for developing an aortic aneurysm if you are male, over age 65, smoke, have high blood pressure, have heart disease, are obese, or have a family history. If you do spot an aneurysm before it ruptures—treatment can be lifesaving.

Dr. Toursavadkohi says aortic aneurysms are often discovered by chance when a patient undergoes imaging tests for another condition or has a physical exam with their doctor. A simple ultrasound can detect an abnormal bulge. Medicare and some private insurance offer free or low-cost aortic screenings for people at risk.

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