Abdominal aortic aneurysms are commonly divided according to their size and symptomatology. An aneurysm is usually defined as an outer aortic diameter over 3 cm (normal diameter of the aorta is around 2 cm).If the outer diameter exceeds 5.5 cm, the aneurysm is considered to be large.
The vast majority of aneurysms are asymptomatic. However, as abdominal aortic aneurysms expand, they may become painful and lead to pulsating sensations in the abdomen or pain in the chest, lower back, or scrotum.The risk of rupture is high in a symptomatic aneurysm, which is therefore considered an indication for surgery.The complications include rupture, peripheral embolization, acute aortic occlusion, and aortocaval (between the aorta and inferior vena cava) or aortoduodenal (between the aorta and the duodenum) fistulae. On physical examination, a palpable abdominal mass can be noted. Bruits can be present in case of renal or visceral arterial stenosis.
The clinical manifestation of ruptured AAA usually includes excruciating pain of the lower back, flank, abdomen and groin. The bleeding usually leads to a hypovolemic shock with hypotension, tachycardia, cyanosis, and altered mental status. The mortality of AAA rupture is up to 90%. 65–75% of patients die before they arrive at hospital and up to 90% die before they reach the operating room.The bleeding can be retroperitoneal or intraperitoneal, or the rupture can create an aortocaval or aortointestinal (between the aorta and intestine) fistula.Flank ecchymosis is a sign of retroperitoneal hemorrhage, and is also called Grey Turner's sign.