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A.D.A.M. Medical Encyclopedia [Internet]. Atlanta (GA): A.D.A.M.; 2013.

A.D.A.M. Medical Encyclopedia.

Aneurysm

Last reviewed: August 30, 2012.

An aneurysm is an abnormal widening or ballooning of a portion of an artery due to weakness in the wall of the blood vessel.

See also:

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

It is not clear exactly what causes aneurysms. Some aneurysms are present at birth (congenital). Defects in some of the parts of the artery wall may be responsible.

Common locations for aneurysms include:

  • The major artery from the heart (the aorta)
  • The brain (cerebral aneurysm)
  • In the leg behind the knee popliteal artery aneurysm)
  • Intestine (mesenteric artery aneurysm)
  • An artery in the spleen (splenic artery aneurysm)

High blood pressure, high cholesterol, and cigarette smoking may raise your risk of certain types of aneurysms. High blood pressure is thought to play a role in abdominal aortic aneurysms. Atherosclerotic disease (cholesterol buildup in arteries) may also lead to the formation of some aneurysms.

Pregnancy is often linked to the formation and rupture of splenic artery aneurysms.

Symptoms

The symptoms depend on the location of the aneurysm. If the aneurysm occurs near the body's surface, pain and swelling with a throbbing mass is often seen.

Aneurysms within the body or brain often cause no symptoms.

If an aneurysm ruptures, pain, low blood pressure, a rapid heart rate, and lightheadedness may occur. The risk of death after a rupture is high.

Signs and tests

The health care provider will perform a physical exam.

Tests used to diagnose an aneurysm include:

  • CT scan
  • Ultrasound

Treatment

Treatment depends on the size and location of the aneurysm. Your doctor may only recommend regular check-ups to see ifthe aneurysm is growing.

Surgery may be done. The type of surgery and when you need it depends on your symptoms and the size and type of aneurysm.

Surgery may involve a large (open) surgical cut. However, some patients may have endovascular embolization. A stent is a tiny tube used to prop open a vessel or reinforce it's wall. . This procedure can be done without a major cut, so you recover faster than you would with open surgery. Not all patients with aneurysms are candidates for stenting, however.

Calling your health care provider

Call your health care provider for if you develop a lump on your body, whether or not it is painful and throbbing.

Prevention

Control of high blood pressure may help prevent some aneurysms. Following a healthy diet, getting regular exercise, and keeping your cholesterol at a healthy level may also help prevent aneurysms or their complications.

Do not smoke. If you do, quitting will lower your risk of an aneurysm.

References

  1. Hauser SC. Vascular diseases of the gastrointestinal tract. In:Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 145.
  2. Isselbacher EM. Diseases of the aorta. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 78.
  3. Zivin JA. Hemorrhagic cerebrovascular disease. In: GoldmanL, Schafer AI, eds. Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 415.

Review Date: 8/30/2012.

Reviewed by: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc.

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The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only — they do not constitute endorsementscof those other sites. © 1997–2011 A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.

Copyright © 2013, A.D.A.M., Inc.

A.D.A.M., Inc. is accredited by URAC, also known as the American Accreditation HealthCare Commission (www.urac.org). URAC's accreditation program is an independent audit to verify that A.D.A.M. follows rigorous standards of quality and accountability. A.D.A.M. is among the first to achieve this important distinction for online health information and services. Learn more about A.D.A.M.'s editorial policy, editorial process and privacy policy. A.D.A.M. is also a founding member of Hi-Ethics and subscribes to the principles of the Health on the Net Foundation (www.hon.ch).

The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only — they do not constitute endorsementscof those other sites. © 1997–2011 A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.

Copyright © 2013, A.D.A.M., Inc.

What works?

  • Thoracic endoscopic stent graft versus open surgery for thoracic aneurysmThoracic endoscopic stent graft versus open surgery for thoracic aneurysm
    An aneurysm is a localised dilation or widening of an artery. Thoracic aneurysm is a relatively infrequent disease that affects both older men and women. The cause of thoracic aneurysm is unknown but the aneurysms generally do not cause symptoms. They are, however, likely to increase in size. Patients who do not receive surgical treatment at the time of diagnosis have a greater chance of dying from rupture of the aneurysm. Aneurysms greater than 5 cm carry a higher risk of bursting. Surgical repair of aneurysms requires general anaesthesia and opening of the chest wall to place an artificial graft in the area of the diseased vessel. This is associated with procedure‐related deaths and complications such as paraplegia, stroke, and renal failure and excludes some patients because of age and accompanying illnesses. Endovascular repair is a recently introduced, minimally invasive technique in which a stent is delivered through a blood vessel and fixed to the aneurysm. A seal forms between the stent and the vessel wall so that blood does not flow between the two. We searched for evidence of the effectiveness of endovascular repair compared with open surgical repair for thoracic aneurysms. No randomised controlled trials were found in the medical literature. Reports from non‐randomised studies suggest that endovascular repair is technically feasible and may reduce early negative outcomes including death and paraplegia. However, stent devices have late complications that are uncommon to open surgery (for example, development of leaks, graft migration, need for re‐intervention) and patients receiving stents may require frequent surveillance with computed tomography (CT) scans.
See all (29) ...

Figures

  • Cerebral aneurysm.
    Aortic aneurysm.
    Intracerebellar hemorrhage - CT scan.

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