What happens if an aortic aneurysm bursts?

A Answers (2)

  • The aorta is the primary artery that is responsible for carrying blood from the heart to your head and other extremities.

    The risk is that an aneurysm will eventually rupture, causing extensive internal bleeding and a complete collapse of circulation. Sudden severe pain, shock and loss of consciousness usually occur within seconds, and death is imminent in more than 50 percent of cases, even with emergency surgery.

  • AEmily Farkas, MD, Cardiothoracic Surgery, answered on behalf of The Society of Thoracic Surgeons

    Because an aortic aneurysm is an enlargement of the largest blood vessel in our body, a rupture or ‘bursting’ of this blood vessel results in massive internal bleeding.  This usually begins with very sudden and extremely severe pain in the area where the aneurysm is located.  It is often experienced in the chest, between the shoulder blades, or in the abdomen, and it can be mistaken for other life-threatening problems, such as a heart attack.  A patient’s blood pressure may be very high at first and then may become very low as more blood is lost inside of the body.  This can result in unconsciousness and even death.  If a patient is able to get medical care before too much blood is lost, in most circumstances immediate surgery will be performed. 

    It’s important to note that although the rupture of an aortic aneurysm is always an emergency, just the presence of an aortic aneurysm is not an emergency.  An aneurysm most often takes several months or years to enlarge to the point where the risk of rupture is high.  Because of this, your doctor may initially recommend regular check-ups and pictures of the aneurysm to monitor if it changes or grows larger.  Because any operation has significant risks, surgery to prevent the rupture of an aneurysm is usually not considered unless the aortic enlargement is advanced.
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