Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm: Care Instructions

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Your Care Instructions

An abdominal aortic aneurysm is a stretched and bulging area of the aorta. The aorta is the large blood vessel that takes oxygen-rich blood from the heart to the rest of the body. This type of aneurysm is in the belly, where the aorta takes blood to the lower body. If an aneurysm gets too big, it can cause serious problems. A bulging aorta is weak and can burst, or rupture. This causes life-threatening bleeding.

If your doctor has determined that your aneurysm is small and not growing fast, it is safe to watch the aneurysm carefully and wait on surgery. If the aneurysm is larger, surgery may be the safest choice. In some cases, your doctor may be able to put in a type of graft, called a stent, to fix the aneurysm without doing major surgery.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • Take your medicines exactly as prescribed. Call your doctor if you think you are having a problem with your medicine. You may take medicine to help lower blood pressure and cholesterol.
  • Follow a heart-healthy diet.
    • Eat lots of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat or nonfat dairy foods.
    • Eat lean proteins, such as seafood, lean meats and poultry, eggs, beans, peas, nuts, seeds, and soy products. Limit saturated fat and avoid trans fat.
    • Limit processed food, sodium, alcohol, and sweets.
  • Ask your doctor what type and level of activity is safe for you. If your doctor recommends it, get regular exercise. Walking is a good choice. Bit by bit, increase the amount you walk every day. Try for at least 30 minutes on most days of the week. You also may want to swim, bike, or do other activities.
  • Stay at a healthy weight. Lose weight if you need to.
  • Do not smoke or allow others to smoke around you. Smoking can make your condition worse. If you need help quitting, talk to your doctor about stop-smoking programs and medicines. These can increase your chances of quitting for good.
  • Manage other health problems. These include diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. If you think you may have a problem with alcohol or drug use, talk to your doctor.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You have severe pain in your belly, back, or chest.
  • You passed out (lost consciousness).
  • You have severe trouble breathing.

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You are dizzy or lightheaded, or you feel like you may faint.
  • One or both feet change color, are painful, feel cool, or burn or tingle.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if you have any problems.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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The Health Encyclopedia contains general health information. Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage or Summary Plan Description. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.