Facts About A Stomach Aneurysm

Although many people associate it with the brain, it is the abdomen or stomach aneurysm that occurs most frequently among people.  Unfortunately, few if any symptoms present with this condition, so it is important to learn facts about the condition. 

What Is An Aneurysm?

An aneurysm is an unusual bulge of an artery in the body, which has the potential for bursting.  While there are numerous veins and arteries throughout the human body, the main artery is called the aorta.  The aorta is the avenue by which oxygen rich blood is transported from the heart to other parts of the body.  A long stretchy tube with the approximate girth of a common garden hose, the aorta stretches from the heart up into the chest and then down into the abdomen.  An aneurysm can occur anywhere along the length of the aorta, although the majority of them occur in the abdomen.

Dangers Of A Stomach Aneurysm

While the walls of the aorta are elastic enough to handle the continuous flow of blood, there are circumstances that can weaken the aorta walls to the point that sections become stretched beyond their limit.  The muscular layer and the elastic fibers of the wall can either gradually break down over time due to long term high blood pressure or smoking or they can break down suddenly as result of trauma such as an automobile accident. 

When the wall structure of the aorta breaks down for any cause, the pressure of the blood flow makes the walls stretch beyond their capability, forming a bulge or balloon.  When the thinning wall has reached its capacity to stretch, the wall can burst.  Organs desperately needing this oxygen rich blood that now spills into the thoracic cavity are deprived and begin to shut down. 

Types Of Aneurysms

These bulges can occur anywhere along the aorta in one of two types:  fusiform, which are symmetrical bulges around the whole circumference of the aorta or saccular, which are bulges on only one side of the aorta.  They can be further distinguished by their location along the aorta.

  • Thoracic aorta aneurysm.  These are found above the diaphragm between the chest and the abdomen.  It is estimated that approximately 25% of all aortic aneurysms are thoracic, and can be the most lethal of all.  It is not fully known what actually causes this type of aneurysm, but there a few factors are known that can contribute to the development such as Marfan syndrome, connective tissue disease, heart valve problems and traumatic injury.

Prognosis:  Many of these are found during routine medical exams, so it is important to see your doctor on an annual basis.  When found early, it is possible to diminish the possibility of rupture through lifestyle changes, medications and sometimes surgery.  If the aneurysm has burst, sudden and severe pain, weakness or paralysis, loss of consciousness and low blood pressure can be experienced.  Often, victims of a ruptured aorta succumb before reaching the hospital.

  • Abdominal (stomach) aneurysm.  This type of bulge in the aorta is found beyond the diaphragm through the abdomen and encompasses about 75% of all aortic aneurysms.  Those most at risk for this type are men over the age of 60, smokers and those with high blood pressure.  The potential may also be a hereditary factor. 

Prognosis:  Early diagnosis is a key component for a positive prognosis.  Once diagnosed, the growth of the stomach aneurysm will be closely monitored, and surgery planned if necessary.  If the aneurysm ruptures, it could result in a life threatening situation.

  • Thoraco-abdominal aneurysm.  These are not often seen, extending through both the thoracic and abdominal areas of the aorta. 

Prognosis:  As with the other types, early diagnosis is vital for a good prognosis.  A rupture will generally lead to death. 

Symptoms Of A Stomach Aneurysm

There are, unfortunately, not always symptomatic signs that an aneurysm has developed.  However, some individuals have noted a pulsing sensation near the navel, tenderness in the abdomen or back pain that have been attributed to this condition.  When a rupture occurs, symptoms will be intense pain in the abdomen, chest or back that radiates to the legs, clammy feeling, dizziness, low blood pressure and loss of consciousness may be experienced.


It is not always possible to prevent an aneurysm from developing, especially when there is a family history of this condition.  However, the majority of people are able to develop a lifestyle that is conducive to all over good health, including cessation of smoking, limiting alcohol usage, adopting a healthy diet that limits salt and cholesterol and exercising on a regular basis. 

Because men over the age of 60 are particularly prone to the development of a stomach aneurysm, it is vital that this group consult with their doctor to be tested for the possibility.  Since there are often no symptoms felt, making a point to ask your doctor to check for this condition can often be a life saving step. 

Though many people associate this condition with the brain, a stomach aneurysm is a very common condition.   Maintaining the healthiest lifestyle possible and seeing your doctor on a regular annual basis could be the very thing to protect you from developing this life threatening condition.

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