The aorta is the largest artery in the body. The abdominal portion of the aorta carries blood to the abdomen, pelvis, and legs. Sometimes the walls of the aorta weaken and bulge in one area. This is called an abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA). AAAs are most often caused by atherosclerosis, also known as hardening of arteries, and high blood pressure.

Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm
Abdominal aortic aneurysm
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Surgery to repair an AAA is often done when the aneurysm:

  • Causes physical symptoms such as abdominal pain
  • Reaches a size of five centimeters (2 inches) across or has been growing rapidly. Smaller aneurysms are watched closely. They are rarely repaired with surgery.
  • Has burst—Surgery must be done right away.

Preventive AAA surgery generally has a good outcome for people who are relatively healthy. Emergency surgery to fix an AAA rupture has a much lower survival rate, due to the rapid loss of blood.