People at risk for an aortic aneurysm should get screened for the life-threatening condition, an expert says.
Aortic aneurysms are balloon-like bulges that can develop anywhere along the aorta, which runs from your heart through your chest and abdomen. An untreated aneurysm can grow until it ruptures or causes a tear between the layers of the artery, also called a dissection.
"Most people with aortic aneurysms don't have symptoms until a tear or rupture has occurred, which is usually accompanied by sharp, sudden pain," said Dr. Brett Carroll, medical director of the Aortic Center at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston. "But with proper screening, we can monitor its growth and intervene before a complication occurs."
An aortic aneurysm that occurs in the chest is called a thoracic aortic aneurysm.
"These aneurysms are usually age-related, occurring most commonly in people ages 65 and older," Carroll said.
Other risk factors for this type of aneurysm include high blood pressure, family history of aortic aneurysm, and connective tissue disorders.
An aneurysm that occurs in the abdomen is called an abdominal aortic aneurysm. It occurs most often in men aged 65 and older. Other risk factors include: history of tobacco use, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, history of other aneurysms in the body, and a family history.
"If you meet any of the criteria, you should ask your doctor about having an aortic aneurysm screening," Carroll said in a medical center news release.
Your doctor can do the simple screening test, and it's covered by insurance if you're between 65 and 74 years of age and have a family history of an abdominal aortic aneurysm; or if you're a man who has smoked more than 100 cigarettes.
"If your doctor sees a concerning finding, s/he can refer you to a specialist," Carroll said.
The U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute has more on aortic aneurysm.