An aneurysm is an abnormal widening or ballooning of a portion of an artery due to weakness in the wall of the blood vessel. Some aneurysms are present at birth. Causes of aneurysms are not clear, but 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 and high cholesterol may increase the risk of certain types of aneurysms. High blood pressure is thought to play a role in abdominal aortic aneurysms. Atherosclerotic disease, which is caused by 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 depend on the location of the aneurysm. If the aneurysm occurs near the body's surface, there may be pain and swelling, and a throbbing mass is often seen. Aneurysms within the brain often cause no symptoms. If an aneurysm ruptures, low blood pressure, high heart rate and lightheadedness may occur. The risk of death after a rupture is high.
Surgery is generally recommended to treat an aneurysm, but not all patients with aneurysms are candidates for stenting. The type of surgery and the time for surgery depend on symptoms and the size and type of aneurysm.
Some patients may have endovascular stent repair. A stent is a tiny tube used to prop open a vessel or reinforce its wall. This procedure can be done without a major incision, so patients recover faster than they would with open surgery.
A health care provider should be consulted if a person develops a lump, whether or not it is painful and throbbing.
Texas Health is committed to providing quality care to heart and vascular patients throughout North Texas and beyond. While various technologies and services are discussed here, not all of our hospitals offer every treatment and diagnostic technology highlighted. Call 1-877-THR-WELL to learn more about heart and vascular services at a Texas Health hospital near you.