There is a reason aortic aneurysm is known as “the silent killer.” Most people who have an aneurysm have no symptoms at all. Most only discover they have an aneurysm incidentally during imaging for another problem. This poses a real danger because aortic aneurysms can grow in size, and when they are not treated they can dissect or rupture without warning.
“With aneurysm disease, the first symptom is death,” says John Elefteriades, MD, a Yale Medicine heart surgeon and director of the Yale Center for Advanced Thoracic Aortic Disease at Yale New Haven Hospital’s Aortic Institute, part of the hospital’s Heart and Vascular Center, as well as an internationally renowned pioneer in his field.
The good news is that an aortic aneurysm that is diagnosed early can be monitored and, when it grows dangerous, treated successfully. An important question to ask yourself is whether you are at high risk for an aneurysm. “If you have a family member who had an aneurysm anywhere in the body, or a family member who died suddenly—especially at a young age or without a history of heart disease—please ask your doctor to check you for aneurysm,” Dr. Elefteriades says.