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Aortic Aneurysm Symptoms & Diagnosis


Many aneurysms do not have symptoms and are detected during a routine physical exam or during x-ray evaluation for another disorder.

Symptoms may occur when the aneurysm grows or disrupts the wall of the aorta. Symptoms depend on the size and location of the aneurysm and may include:

  • Pain in the abdomen or in the lower back
  • Boring, gnawing, constant pain occurring over hours or days
  • Sudden onset of severe stabbing pain
  • Unusual sensation of pulsing in the abdomen
  • Cough, shortness of breath (thoracic aortic aneurysm)
  • Sudden blood pressure drop, fainting (upon rupture of aneurysm)
  • Hoarseness
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Coughing up blood
  • Weight loss
  • Bowel obstruction
  • Chest pain


The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history, and perform a physical exam. Pain is the symptom that will most likely cause you to go to the doctor. Most aortic aneurysms are discovered during a routine physical exam.

Tests may include:

  • Abdominal or chest x-ray
  • Abdominal or chest ultrasound
  • CT scan of the abdomen or chest—a type of x-ray that uses a computer to make images of the inside of the body
  • MRI scan of the abdomen or chest—a test that uses magnetic waves to make images of the inside of the body
  • Transesophageal echocardiography (ECHO)—the use of ultrasound to study the heart and its vessels; a transducer, which records the information, is swallowed by the patient
  • Aortography —the use of x-rays and injection of a contrast dye to make images of the heart and the aorta
  • Cardiac catheterization —a tube-like instrument is inserted into the heart through a vein or artery (usually in the arm or leg) to detect problems with the heart and its blood supply

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Copyright © 2024 EBSCO Publishing All rights reserved.

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