(LifeWire) - The aorta is the largest artery of the body and it runs all the way from the heart to the lower body. An aneurysm is a ballooning out of an artery wall, a bit like what happens at a weak spot in an inner tube.
The rupture of an aortic aneurysm is a dire emergency. It results in massive bleeding inside the body and requires immediate surgery. If the bleeding is not stopped, the person will die. Every year, about 15,000 Americans die of a ruptured aortic aneurysm.
Before an aneurysm bursts, there may be no signs or symptoms. But once it occurs, symptoms can be severe and may include:
- Sudden, intense pain in the back or abdomen, possibly spreading to the groin, buttocks and legs
- Throbbing lump-like mass or sensation in the abdomen
- Abdominal rigidity
- Symptoms of shock, including trembling, dizziness, sweating, fainting and elevated heart rate
- Nausea and vomiting
- Pale skin
- Dry mouth and great thirst
For any rupture of an aortic aneurysm, time is of the essence. Chances for survival are greatest -- about 35% -- if it happens when the person is already hospitalized. If it occurs elsewhere, the survival rate is only about 10%.
Traditionally, surgical repair of the aorta involves an abdominal incision, clamping off the artery and repairing it with a synthetic graft, which was a major operation fraught with risk.
The traditional open surgical repair is still a good option in many cases. But a newer, less-invasive procedure called endovascular repair is also being used now, especially in older patients or those with other medical conditions.
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