If you have aortic aneurysm, but no symptoms, your doctor may find it by chance during a routine physical exam. More often, doctors find aneurysms during tests done for other reasons, such as chest or abdominal pain.
If you have an abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA), your doctor may feel a throbbing mass in your abdomen. A rapidly growing aneurysm about to rupture can be tender and very painful when pressed. If you're overweight or obese, it may be hard for your doctor to feel even a large AAA.
If you have an AAA, your doctor may hear rushing blood flow instead of the normal whooshing sound when listening to your abdomen with a stethoscope.
Your primary care doctor may refer you to a cardiothoracic or vascular surgeon for diagnosis and treatment of an aortic aneurysm.
A cardiothoracic surgeon performs surgery on the heart, lungs, and other organs and structures in the chest, including the aorta. A vascular surgeon performs surgery on the aorta and other blood vessels, except those of the heart and brain.
Diagnostic Tests and Procedures
To diagnose and evaluate an aneurysm, your doctor may recommend one or more of the following tests.
This simple, painless test uses sound waves to create pictures of the structures inside your body. Ultrasound shows the size of an aneurysm, if one is found.
Computed Tomography Scan
A computed tomography (CT) scan is a painless test that uses x rays to take clear, detailed pictures of your internal organs.
During the test, your doctor will inject a special dye into a vein in your arm. This dye highlights the aorta on the CT scan images.
Your doctor may recommend this test if he or she thinks you have an AAA or a thoracic aortic aneurysm (TAA). A CT scan can show the size and shape of an aneurysm. This test provides more detailed images than an ultrasound.
Magnetic Resonance Imaging
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) uses magnets and radio waves to create images of the organs and structures in your body.
This test is very accurate at detecting aneurysms and pinpointing their size and exact location.
Angiography (an-jee-OG-ra-fee) uses a special dye injected into the bloodstream to highlight the insides of arteries on x-ray pictures. An angiogram shows the amount of damage and blockage in blood vessels.
An angiogram of the aorta is called an aortogram. An aortogram may show the location and size of an aortic aneurysm.
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