The ballooning of a blood vessel is called an aneurysm. It commonly affects the blood vessels in the brain, aorta, behind the knee, and spleen. Read the article to know more.
The enlargement of an artery caused by weakness in the wall of the artery, is called an aneurysm. Usually, an aneurysm does not cause any symptoms. But it can cause fatal complications if it ruptures. As the artery wall is weakened in a spot, it results in a bulge or distention, of that spot. Most aneurysms are not dangerous, but some can rupture and result in severe internal bleeding. This bulging of an artery can occur anywhere in the body, but it is most commonly seen in the arteries of the brain, legs, spleen, and heart (aorta).
Aneurysms of the Circle of Willis in the brain and abdominal aortic aneurysms are most commonly fatal. Following a heart attack, aneurysms can also occur in the heart.
An aneurysm can be classified depending on the shape, type, and location. Depending on the shape, the types are:
Fusiform aneurysms - The blood vessel bulges on all sides.
Saccular aneurysms - Only bulge on one side.
Depending on the type, aneurysms can be:
True aneurysm - An aneurysm that involves all three layers of the artery wall. Examples are atherosclerotic, congenital, ventricular, and syphilitic aneurysms.
False aneurysm or Pseudoaneurysm - It occurs when blood leaks out of an artery or vein, but the blood gets collected in the surrounding tissue. It is commonly seen after blunt trauma.
Depending on the location, the types are:
Aortic aneurysm - The large artery that begins from the heart is called the aorta. It is normally 2 to 3 cm in diameter, but with an aneurysm, it can bulge to more than 5 cm. The two types of aortic aneurysm are:
Abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) - AAA is the most common type of aortic aneurysm. If left untreated, the survival rate is 20 % for an AAA of over 6 cm. It can become fatal rapidly.
Thoracic aortic aneurysm - This type is rare. It has a survival rate of 85 % with surgery and 56 % without treatment.
Brain aneurysm - Bulging of the arteries that supply blood to the brain are called brain or cerebral aneurysms. If this aneurysm gets ruptured, it results in death within 24 hours. It is fatal in 40 % of cases.
Peripheral aneurysm - An aneurysm in any of the peripheral arteries is called peripheral aneurysm. The types of peripheral aneurysm are:
Popliteal aneurysm (artery behind the knee).
Carotid artery aneurysm (artery in the neck).
Coronary artery aneurysm (arteries that supply blood to the heart).
Renal artery aneurysm (artery that supplies blood to kidneys).
Splenic artery aneurysm (artery near the spleen).
Femoral artery aneurysm (artery in the groin).
Mesenteric artery aneurysm (artery that carries blood to the intestines).
Visceral aneurysm (artery that supplies blood to the bowel).
The exact cause of an aneurysm is still not clear, but the factors that increase the risk of a person developing an aneurysm are:
Positive family history.
Congenital (present from birth).
Injury to tissue in the arteries.
Atherosclerotic disease (plaque buildup in the arteries).
High blood pressure (hypertension).
Aneurysms produce no symptoms and can develop slowly over many years. Symptoms develop when the aneurysm expands quickly or ruptures. The common symptoms include:
Increased heart rate.
If the aneurysm is near the surface of the skin, it might cause painful swelling with a visible throbbing mass.
Throbbing navel pain.
Severe pain on the side of the abdomen.
Loss of balance.
Loss of perception.
Pain behind the eyes.
Even though the exact cause of an aneurysm is not known, some factors that seem to increase the risk of developing one are:
Family history of heart problems.
Consuming a diet high in saturated and trans fats.
Aneurysms that do not cause any symptoms are diagnosed accidentally while screening for some other health condition. The common methods used are:
CT scan - X-rays are used to produce cross-sectional views of the body.
MRI scan - Strong magnetic fields, magnetic field gradients, and radio waves are used to generate images of the organs in the body.
Ultrasound - High-frequency sound waves are used to produce images of organs inside the body.
The treatment options include:
Aortic aneurysm - If the aneurysm does not cause any symptoms, then medications and preventive measures are suggested along with surgical treatment. Emergency surgery is needed for a ruptured aneurysm. Depending on the age, coexisting conditions, patient’s choice, size of the aneurysm, and it’s rate of growth, an unruptured aortic aneurysm is operated. The two surgical options include:
Open stent-graft surgery - Here, a large incision is made to expose the aorta, and a stent is placed.
Endovascular stent-graft surgery - Here, the aneurysm is accessed through a small incision near the hip, and a stent-graft is inserted. This graft helps seal off the aneurysm.
Brain aneurysm - Brain aneurysms are operated only if there is a high risk of rupture, as surgical complications are severe. Here, the doctor will advise the patients to lower the risk of such aneurysms from rupturing, like controlling blood pressure.
Aneurysms can be fatal if they rupture. Symptoms that result from a ruptured aneurysm are:
Aortic aneurysm rupture - Severe chest or back pain.
Angina - A type of chest pain that can also cause a heart attack.
Brain aneurysm rupture - Extreme headache.
Some tips that can help prevent an aneurysm are:
Your diet should contain a lot of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
Consume lean meat and low-fat dairy products.
Exercising regularly can help good blood circulation and blood flow to the heart and blood vessels.
Go for regular checkups.
For more information, consult a doctor online.
When a blood vessel in the brain bulges or balloons out, it is called a brain aneurysm. If this aneurysm ruptures, it can cause life-threatening complications.
An abnormal bulging occurring in the wall of a major blood vessel that carries blood from the heart is called an aortic aneurysm. If the aneurysm is in the part of the aorta that passes through the abdomen, then it is called an abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA). And if it is present in the aorta passing through the chest cavity, it is known as a thoracic aortic aneurysm.
An aneurysm does not usually cause any symptoms if it is small and not ruptured. If the aneurysm grows, symptoms result as it compresses the nearby structures. You will have severe symptoms if the aneurysm ruptures. These symptoms depend on the location of the aneurysm.
Some tips to prevent an aneurysm are:
- Eat a diet low in calories, trans and saturated fats, and sodium.
- Control your blood pressure.
- Reduce high cholesterol levels.
- Exercise regularly.
- Manage stress and anxiety.
- Quit smoking.
An aneurysm can be caused by:
- Injury to the blood vessel.
- Aortic dissection.
An aneurysm in the part of the aorta that passes through the abdomen is called an abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA). It is the most common type of aortic aneurysm.
The treatment depends on the size and location of the aneurysm. Small aneurysms are usually managed with lifestyle changes and medicine, and preventive measures are undertaken to prevent it from rupturing. A ruptured aneurysm needs emergency surgery.
An aneurysm can be seen in a CT scan, MRI scan, or ultrasound.
Currently, there is no blood test to detect an aneurysm. But researches are on to identify biomarkers in the blood that are associated with this condition.
Reduce the consumption of sodium (salt) and trans and saturated fat in your diet. Eat vegetables, fruits, and whole grains.
Last reviewed at:
03 Oct 2019 - 5 min read
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