What happens if an aortic aneurysm bursts?

If an aortic aneurysm bursts, it is fatal in most people. An aortic aneurysm is a deadly condition, particularly when the diameter of the aneurysm grows to 5.5 centimeters. At this size, it is important to have the aneurysm fixed, as the yearly risk of rupture is high enough to warrant the risk of the surgery. The goal is to fix the aneurysm before it ruptures.

Dr. Emily A. Farkas, MD
Cardiothoracic Surgeon

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.

If an aortic aneurysm bursts, blood will flow out at a high rate and is life threatening. A rupture like this is a medical emergency and will be fatal in under an hour.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.