Aortic aneurysms affect up to 5 % of the population, and over 200,000 new AAA's are diagnosed every year. Rupture carries a mortality of 75 - 90 % making AAA's the 13th leading cause of death in the US.
Major risk factors for AAA include smoking which causes a 3 - 5 fold increase in AAA prevalence across all age groups, family history, age over 60, and male gender (men are 4 times more likely to have aneurysms than women). Lesser risk factors include hypertension, atherosclerosis, and coronary artery disease.
AAA is called the "silent killer" as 75 % of patients have no symptoms at all when diagnosed. Symptoms may include abdominal pain or a pulsating sensation in the abdomen. Symptoms of rupture include sudden onset of severe back or abdominal pain, nausea, dizziness or fainting.
Most AAA's are diagnosed incidentally. They can be diagnosed by physical exam, abdominal ultrasound, or commonly by computerized tomography scan (CT scan).
The biggest concern surrounding AAA's is the aneurysm rupture. Risk of rupture is dependent on the size of the aneurysm. As the aneurysm grows to 5 cm or greater the annual risk of rupture increases exponentially.