Symptoms and signs of Aortic Aneurysms

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Most instances of aortic aneurysm are asymptomatic, which means that their appearance and growth do not cause the patient any discomfort. That is why they are often detected by chance, almost always during an imaging test carried out while studying another problem.

For example, thoracic aortic aneurysms are commonly discovered during a chest X-ray or scan conducted for some other reason and abdominal aortic aneurysms are initially observed by means of an ultrasound performed to study a potential urinary or prostate problem.

Although uncommon, people with aortic aneurysms sometimes notice pain, usually in the lumbar region (in the case of abdominal aortic aneurysms) or between the shoulder blades (in thoracic aortic aneurysms). In patients with an aneurysm who notice pain, their doctors must determine whether there are any complications, although there may not necessarily be any.

Clinical signs

Hand palpation of the stomach to find an aneurysm

Abdominal aortic aneurysms. The most common clinical sign is palpation of the actual aneurysm in the form of a pulsating mass near the navel. It is important to stress that when a doctor can feel a pulse in the abdomen it is not always due to an aortic aneurysm, so it must be confirmed through imaging tests.

Thoracic aortic aneurysms, however, cannot usually be felt by the doctor as they are located deep inside the chest.

Other clinical signs associated with aortic aneurysms are:

Person with persistent cough

Chronic cough and difficulty or discomfort when breathing or swallowing. In thoracic aortic aneurysms due to pressure on the respiratory or digestive tract.

Person with itchy inside of mouth and throat

Hoarseness or loss of voice. This is also linked to thoracic aneurysms which compress nerves involved in speech.

Woman with tummy ache next to the WC

Abdominal discomfort, vomiting, early satiety (fullness). In large abdominal aortic aneurysms due to compression of the digestive tract.

Swelling and pain in the feet

Urinary discomfort or swelling in the legs. These are also signs of abdominal aneurysms in which the aneurysm compresses the urinary tract or veins that receive drainage from the lower limbs.

Legs with pain symbols

Circulatory problems in the lower limbs. In the form of a sudden lack of blood supply (feeling of coldness, pain, paleness) or the appearance of ulcers or lesions on the toes. 

Person with lung disease who coughs up blood

Coughing up blood, bleeding from the mouth or bloody faeces (very dark stools). This occurs if the aneurysm forms an ulcer and communicates with the respiratory or digestive tracts.

Scale with a down arrow indicating a weight loss

Slow, progressive weight loss, fever or low-grade fever. These signs are usually observed in aneurysms caused by infections or in a special subtype called inflammatory aneurysms.

Substantiated information by:

Eduardo Quintana Obrador
Xavier Yugueros

Published: 10 March 2020
Updated: 10 March 2020

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