Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm

August 2018

An abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) is a bulge or swelling in the aorta, the main blood vessel that runs

from the heart down through the chest and tummy.

An AAA can be dangerous if it isn't spotted early on.

It can get bigger over time and could burst (rupture), causing life-threatening bleeding.

Symptoms of an AAA


AAAs don't usually cause any obvious symptoms, and are often only picked up during screening or tests carried out for another reason.

Some people with an AAA have:

  • a pulsing sensation in the tummy (like a heartbeat)

  • tummy pain that doesn't go away

  • lower back pain that doesn't go away


If an AAA bursts, it can cause:

  • sudden, severe pain in the tummy or lower back

  • dizziness

  • sweaty, pale and clammy skin

  • a fast heartbeat

  • shortness of breath

  • fainting or passing out

When to get medical help

Make an appointment to see your GP as soon as possible if you have symptoms, especially if you're at a higher risk of an AAA.

An ultrasound scan of your tummy may be done to check if you have one.

Call for an ambulance immediately if you or someone else develops symptoms of a burst AAA.

Reducing your risk of an AAA


There are several things you can do to reduce your chances of getting an AAA or help stop one getting bigger.

These include:

  • stopping smoking 

  • eating healthily – eat a balanced diet and cut down on fatty food

  • exercising regularly – aim to do at least 150 minutes of exercise a week;

  • maintaining a healthy weight 

  • cutting down on alcohol 


If you have a condition that increases your risk of an AAA, such as high blood pressure, your GP may also recommend taking tablets to treat this.

Who's at risk of an AAA

An AAA can form if the sides of the aorta weaken and balloon outwards. It's not always clear why this happens, but there are things that increase the risk.

People at a higher risk of getting an AAA:

  • men aged 65 or over – AAAs are up to six times more common in men than women, and the risk of getting one goes up as you get older

  • people who smoke – if you smoke or used to smoke, you're up to 15 times more likely to get an AAA

  • people with high blood pressure – high blood pressure can double your risk of getting an AAA

  • people with a parent, sibling or child with an AAA – you're about four times more likely to get an AAA if a close relative has had one


Speak to your GP if you're worried you may be at risk of an AAA. They may suggest having a scan to check if you have one and making healthy lifestyle changes to reduce your risk of an AAA.

Treatments for an AAA


The recommended treatment for an AAA depends on how big it is.

Treatment isn't always needed straight away if the risk of an AAA bursting is low.

Treatment for a:

  • small AAA (3cm to 4.4cm across) – ultrasound scans are recommended every year to check if it's getting bigger; you'll be advised about healthy lifestyle changes to help stop it growing

  • medium AAA (4.5cm to 5.4cm) – ultrasound scans are recommended every three months to check if it's getting bigger; you'll also be advised about healthy lifestyle changes

  • large AAA (5.5cm or more) – surgery to stop it getting bigger or bursting is usually recommended

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Angels Nursing Group

Tel:   (0034) 902 02 64 68/647 407 455

Angels Nursing Group S.L, Los Carasoles 27, Zurgena, 04650, Almeria - C.I.F B04762712