If you are experiencing a heartbeat in your abdomen, it's possible you have an abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA). An aneurysm of any type is a serious health condition. The aneurysm, a ballooning of your artery, could rupture, causing internal bleeding, shock or death. There aren't too many signs that indicate this serious condition.
Your aorta is the biggest artery in your body. It is referred to as the abdominal aorta when it reaches the abdomen. Its job from here is to carry blood to the lower half of your body. Natural pressure from the blood flow can weaken part of the aorta, creating a bulge similar to a balloon; this is considered an aneurysm. Vascular Web states that a normal aorta is about one inch in diameter. When stretched beyond this point, it becomes a dangerous health concern.
According to Vascular Web, about 200,000 people are diagnosed with abdominal aortic aneurysms annually. Vascular Web states that symptoms of AAA include a "pulsing feeling in your abdomen, similar to a heartbeat"; lower back or abdominal pain; and in rare cases your feet may hurt, become discoloured or develop sores. If the pain in your back or abdomen is sudden and severe, this may be an indication that the aneurysm is ready to rupture.
There are several causes of AAA. Among these are age; the older you are, the higher the risk of developing the condition. Vascular Web states that men over 60 are in a higher risk category than women and younger men. According to the Mayo Clinic, if you smoke or if you have high blood pressure your risk increases. It is also believed to be an inherited condition. Trauma can cause an abdominal aortic aneurysm as well.
If you suspect you have an abdominal aortic aneurysm, there are several tests physicians can run to give you a proper diagnosis. These include an abdominal ultrasound, chest X-rays, physical examination, computed tomography (CT) scan or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
Treatment depends on the size of your aneurysm. Surgery is usually not considered for aneurysms smaller than two inches, or five to five and a half centimetres. If the AAA is small, your physician will recommend "watchful waiting." According to Vascular Web, this means you will be monitored every six to 12 months for changes in the aneurysm's size. If you smoke, you will be advised to stop. If you have high blood pressure, medication may be prescribed. When surgery is necessary, an incision is made in the abdomen to access and replace the weakened aorta. Surgeries are 90 per cent successful and recovery takes anywhere from six weeks to three months. An aneurysm does not go away on its own.