Aneurism: Cause for a Pulsating Abdomen

A bulging mass that can develop in an artery wall, an aneurism is a common occurrence and can be the cause for a pulsating abdomen.  While many aneurisms are small and do not create problems, one that ruptures can be extremely serious and sometimes fatal.

An aneurism can happen to any person, but there are certain risk factors that make some people more susceptible to them.  Age is one such factor; exacerbated by the addition of other conditions.  Arteries, both small and large, tend to weaken over time especially when specific detrimental conditions are present.  High blood pressure is a condition that strains the walls of the arteries, and continual pressure will result in a weakening of these arteries.  Atherosclerosis is a condition in which a buildup of plaque accumulates on the walls of the arteries, also termed as a “hardening” of the arteries.  Over time, this too leads to a deterioration of the affected arteries.  The use of tobacco products is another factor that negatively affects arteries. 

Aneurisms form due the weakening of the arteries.  While they can occur in the back of the knee, the chest, the thighs, the neck and the brain, the common area affected by aneurisms, especially in older individuals, is the aorta in the abdomen.  When they develop, blood flow is restricted and blood clots can result.  These clots can break off, travel through the bloodstream until they are constricted in yet another artery where they can cause a blockage.  Aneurisms develop slowly over the period of years, with few to no symptoms to alert the individual of their presence. 

A rupture in the aorta may occur if an aneurism experiences sudden growth, is torn open or causes a leakage of blood in the artery walls.  While the presence of an aneurism may not be accompanied by symptoms, a rupture of the aorta brings a sudden onset of symptoms.  These symptoms can include skin clamminess, a rapid heart rate, sign of shock, nausea and a pulsating abdomen. In addition, severe pain will be present in the back and the abdomen, sometimes spreading out to the legs, buttocks or groin.  An individual who experiences any of these symptoms should immediately be transported to the emergency room, as the massive loss of blood can have tragic results.

To diagnose the condition, the doctor will need to perform a thorough examination of the abdomen.  He or she will also check the pulse points of different areas of the body, especially in the lower extremities.  When a mass in abdominal area, combined with a stiffened abdomen that displays a pulsing sensation is presented, it could mean that either a rupture of the aorta is imminent or that it has already occurred.  Using ultrasonography, the presence of an abdominal aneurism can be confirmed.  As further confirmation, an angiogram may also be required.  This is performed through the injection of dye directly into the artery using a thin tube called a catheter.  The catheter, after inserted into the artery, is then fed through the artery until it reaches the aorta in question.  If present, the dye will clearly outline the aneurism that will be visible to the doctor in an x-ray. 

When the presence of an aneurism through a routine examination where a pulsating abdomen condition is noted, it can generally be treated without surgery.  Controlling blood pressure will be the first course of action.  Large aneurisms have a greater risk of rupturing, and may warrant surgery to remove it if the individual is in general good health. 

For individuals who are diagnosed with abdominal aneurisms, close monitoring of these anomalies will be conducted to ensure they do not worsen.  In some cases, further treatment including surgery may be indicated.  While common and usually not serious, any aneurism should be considered as a potential threat.