Medical history and physical exam for an aortic aneurysm

Aortic aneurysms usually do not cause symptoms. But signs of this condition may sometimes be found during a routine physical exam. If your complaints indicate an aortic aneurysm, the doctor may ask:

  • When your symptoms started.
  • How your symptoms may relate to eating.
  • About other diseases, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, heart or vascular disease, or stroke.
  • About smoking history or intravenous (IV) drug use.
  • About a family history of congenital disease.
  • About any past injuries to the chest or automobile accidents.
  • About a history of sexually transmitted diseases, such as syphilis.

In the case of an abdominal aortic aneurysm, your doctor will give you a complete physical exam that may include:

  • A thorough examination of the abdomen. Enlarged pulsation of the aorta can sometimes be felt, suggesting that an abdominal aortic aneurysm may be present. The abdominal aortic aneurysm must be about 4 cm in diameter before it can be felt.
  • An examination of the legs and feet.

If your doctor finds a pulsating mass in the abdomen, he or she will suggest further testing. If you are overweight and your doctor feels strongly that you may have an abdominal aortic aneurysm, he or she may also suggest further testing. This is because an abdominal aortic aneurysm is generally more difficult to find in those who are overweight.

Last Updated: January 26, 2010

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