Arterial Aneurysms occur when the weakened walls of an artery results in an abnormally large bulge. It is found most often in the aorta, the main artery line that carries blood from the heart to the body.When the abnormal bulge caused byane aneurysm ruptures it causes internal bleeding. Arterial aneurysms are common in the brain, aorta, legs and spleen. However, it can occur in any part of the body.
Causes of Aneurysm
There can be multiple factors responsible for an arterial aneurysm though often times the exact causes are unclear. Damaged arterial tissues, blockages due to fatty deposits and stress can contribute to this medical condition. When arteries are blocked by fatty deposits, it can make the heart to pump harder to push through those blockages. As the blood flows with increased pressure it can weaken the walls of the arteries leading to an aneurysm.
Other causes of aneurysms include:
- Atherosclerotic disease
- High blood pressure
Types of Arterial Aneurysms
Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm
Abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) is characterized by abnormal enlargement of the aorta (large blood vessel) that supplies blood to the legs, pelvis and abdomen. Mostly found in men over 60 years, people with abdominal aortic aneurysm have one or more of these risk factors:
- Family history of abdominal aortic aneurysm
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
Symptoms of Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm
Most aneurysms are difficult to detect with symptoms. It can grow without symptoms and some may never rupture at all. However, there are some symptoms of an enlarging abdominal aortic aneurysm which include:
- Back pain
- Pulsating feeling near the navel
- Constant pain in the abdomen or the side of the abdomen
An abdominal aortic aneurysm rupture is a medical emergency and fatal. Only 20% of patients with a rupture survive. Extreme pain in the belly or back that does not go away can be a sign of a rupture.
Cerebral aneurysm occurs when a blood vessel wall in the brain becomes weak and bulges out. Trauma, infection and atherosclerosis can also cause this type of aneurysm.
Symptoms of Cerebral Aneurysm
- Severe headaches
- Ongoing headaches
- Double vision
- Loss of vision
- Stiff neck
- Eye pain
- Neck pain
Thoracic Aortic Aneurysm
Thoracic aortic aneurysm is mostly caused by hardening of the arteries, medically known as atherosclerosis. It is characterized by an abnormal bulging of the part of the aorta that passes through the chest. The elderly, people with Marfan syndrome, a genetic condition, and those with an inflammation of the aorta are at risk of suffering from thoracic aortic aneurysm. Other risk factors include injury, trauma and syphilis.
Symptoms of Thoracic Aortic Aneurysm
- Swelling in the neck
- Discomfort while swallowing
- Hoarseness in voice
- High-pitched breathing
- Chest or upper back pain
- Clammy skin
- Nausea and vomiting
- Rapid heart rate
- Sense of dread and doom
Diagnosis of Arterial Aneurysm
Aneurysms are diagnosed depending on the location of the arterial damage in the body. Usually, you will be required to consult a vascular surgeon or a cardiothoracic surgeon who will recommend appropriate tests.
During the preliminary check, your doctor may do the following tests:
- Listen to your heart
- Check your blood pressure
- Listen to the arteries in your neck
- Feel your abdomen for a mass
If there is a likelihood of an aneurysm, the doctor will advise you to go for the following tests:
- Ultrasound test
- CT scan or angiogram
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
Treatment of Arterial Aneurysms
Treatment options for aneurysms vary on the type and location of an aneurysm. While in some cases a specialist may opt for a minimally invasive procedure, such as endovascular stent graft, in other cases traditional open surgery may be preferred over minimally invasive or non-invasive ones. Treatment options for aneurysms can be divided three broad types:
- Endovascular Stent Grafting: Stenting or endovascular stent grafting uses a stent graft to strengthen the weakened wall of the aorta and prevent it from rupturing.
- Endovascular Embolization: Endovascular embolization or coiling is a treatment method that seals of the aneurysms to decrease the risk of a rupture.
- Endovascular Coiling: In endovascular coiling tiny coils are inserted into the blood vessel to seal of an aneurysm that has the potential to rupture and cause bleeding.
- Clipping: Clipping is an effective treatment with great results for brain aneurysms. During the procedure, a small metallic clip is placed along the neck of an aneurysm to prevent the blood from entering the aneurysm.
- Medications: Some aneurysms are treated with antihypertensive (blood pressure reducing) and anticoagulants (blood thinning) drugs.
- Surgery: Surgery is also an option for treating some types of aneurysm.
Endovascular Aneurysm Repair
In Endovascular Aneurysm Repair, as known as EVAR, a small incision is made in the groin and a graft is inserted into an aneurysm using X-rays and placed inside. EVAR does not require any abdominal surgery.
Vascular grafting is a surgical procedure that helps to bypass a blocked or diseased blood vessel using a graft (synthetic tube).