Aortic Aneurysm - Exams and Tests
Aortic aneurysms are often discovered during an
echocardiogram done for other reasons. Sometimes an
abdominal aneurysm is felt during a routine physical exam. If your doctor thinks you might have an aortic aneurysm, you will likely have a medical history and physical exam. You might have further tests to locate the aneurysm.
When an aneurysm is suspected or diagnosed, it is important to:
- Pinpoint the location of the
- Estimate its size.
- Find out how fast it is
- Find out whether
other blood vessels are involved.
- See if there are blood
clots or inflammation.
Medical history and physical exam
Your doctor may ask:
- Do you have symptoms and when did they start?
- Do you smoke?
- Do you have other diseases, such as high
- Do you have a family member who has had an aortic aneurysm?
- Have you had a chest injury recently?
As part of a physical exam, your doctor might:
- Listen to your heart to check for blood flow problems.
- Feel your abdomen to check for a mass that might be an enlarged aorta. An aneurysm has to be a certain size, about 4 cm, before it can be felt.
- Check your legs
If your doctor finds a mass in your 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 typically more
difficult to find in those who are overweight.
Tests to help find out the location, size, and rate of
growth of an aneurysm include:
- Abdominal ultrasound. Ultrasounds help
your doctor know if your aneurysm is growing. If your aneurysm is large, you
may need an ultrasound every 6 to 12 months. If your aneurysm is small, you may
need one every 2 to 3 years.
- Computed tomography (CT) and
magnetic resonance angiogram (MRA), which are used if
a view more detailed than an ultrasound is needed. This is important when
information is needed about the aneurysm's relation to the blood vessels of the
kidney or other organs. Your doctor needs this information especially before
surgery. CT is used to watch the growth of a thoracic aortic
- Echocardiogram, an ultrasound exam used
to study the heart. A transthoracic echocardiogram (TTE) or a transesophageal
echocardiogram (TEE) may be done to diagnose thoracic aortic
- Angiogram. An angiogram can help
your doctor know what the size of the aneurysm is and if there are
aortic dissections, blood clots, or other blood vessel
One of the most important goals of testing is to estimate
the risk that an aneurysm may burst, or rupture, and to compare the risk of
rupture to the risks of surgery. If an aortic aneurysm is detected, tests such
as abdominal ultrasound can be used to closely follow any change in the size or
other aspect of the aneurysm and help measure the risk for
If you had an endovascular repair of an aneurysm, and you have a stent graft, you will need tests every year, such as a CT scan, to check for problems with the graft.5