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What Increases Your Risk?

Several factors can increase your risk of developing an aortic aneurysm, rupture, or dissection:

  • High blood pressure: Blood pressure applies force to the wall of the aorta.
  • Smoking: Tobacco use is linked with a higher risk of developing an aneurysm.
  • Family history: If any of your first-degree relatives (mother, brother, father, sister or child) has a history of aneurysm, you are at a greater risk of the condition.

If you have an aortic aneurysm, multiple factors increase the risk of it bursting (rupture) or tearing (dissection). These include the size, type, and overall cause of the aneurysm as well as your blood pressure.

The size of the aneurysm is the best predictor of risk. Larger aneurysms are more likely to burst or tear. Aneurysm size relative to patient size may be an even more useful measure. Thus for the same size aneurysm, a smaller patient has a greater chance for rupture or dissection than a bigger patient. Specific types of aneurysms may be at increased risk for rupture depending on the cause, shape, size, and patient factors.

The cause of the aneurysm plays a large role in risk. Aneurysms caused by certain genetic conditions, such as Marfan Syndrome or Ehlers Danlos Syndrome, are more likely to rupture due to the weakened aortic wall. In these patients, surgery often may be recommended when the aneurysm is at smaller sizes.

When to Call a Doctor

If you have an aortic aneurysm, the symptoms may feel like those of a heart attack or stroke. The most common symptom is pain. If you know you have an aortic aneurysm, or if you have a family history of aortic aneurysm, you should call 911 if you develop chest, back, or belly pain that is persistent, severe, or different from anything you have experienced.

Pain is often described as "tearing" and "migratory," meaning that the pain may move from the chest to your midsection. In addition, passing out and shortness of breath are other frequent symptoms that may be linked with an aneurysm.

Patients with aneurysms that involve the aortic arch or descending aorta may experience worsening hoarseness of the voice or have a hard time swallowing because of aneurysm growth putting pressure on the nerve to the vocal cord or the esophagus. If you develop any of these symptoms, you should talk to a doctor.

  • Last Edited 08/30/2021