E-mail Form
Email Results

 
 
Print-Friendly
Bookmarks Save as Bookmark
bookmarks-menu

Aneurysm

Aneurysm - splenic artery; Aneurysm - popliteal artery; Aneurysm - mesenteric artery

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

Causes

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

Common locations for aneurysms include:

  • Major artery from the heart such as the thoracic or abdominal aorta
  • Brain (cerebral aneurysm)
  • Behind the knee (popliteal artery aneurysm)
  • Intestine (mesenteric artery aneurysm)
  • Artery in the spleen (splenic artery aneurysm)

Certain factors or conditions may increase the risk for aneurysms including:

  • High blood pressure (thoracic, abdominal and cerebral aneurysms)
  • High cholesterol
  • Cigarette smoking
  • Illicit drug use (cocaine, amphetamines)
  • Pregnancy (often linked to splenic artery aneurysms)
  • Family history (sibling, parent, or child)

Inherited disorders that may increase the risk include:

Symptoms

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

Aneurysms in the body or brain often cause no symptoms. Aneurysms in the brain may expand without breaking open (rupturing). The expanded aneurysm may press on nerves and cause double vision, dizziness, or headaches. Some aneurysms may cause ringing in the ears.

If an aneurysm ruptures, pain, low blood pressure, a rapid heart rate, and lightheadedness may occur. When a brain aneurysm ruptures, there is a sudden severe headache that some people say is the "worst headache of my life." The risk of neurologic injury, coma, or death after a rupture is high.

Exams and Tests

The health care provider will perform a physical exam.

Tests used to diagnose an aneurysm include:

Treatment

Treatment depends on the size and location of the aneurysm. Your provider may only recommend regular checkups to see if the aneurysm is growing.

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

Surgery may involve a large (open) surgical cut. Sometimes, a procedure called endovascular embolization is done. Coils or stents of metal are inserted into a brain aneurysm to make the aneurysm clot. This reduces the risk for rupture while keeping the artery open. Other brain aneurysms may need to have a clip placed on them to close them off and prevent a rupture.

Aneurysms of the aorta may be reinforced with surgery to strengthen the blood vessel wall.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

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

Go to the emergency room or call 911 or the local emergency number if you have:

  • Pain in your belly or back that is very bad or does not go away
  • A sudden or severe headache, especially if you also have nausea, vomiting, seizures, or any other nervous system symptom

If you are diagnosed with an aneurysm that has not bled, you will need to have regular testing to detect if it increases in size.

Prevention

Controlling high blood pressure may help prevent many aneurysms. Follow a healthy diet, get regular exercise, and keep your cholesterol at a healthy level to help prevent aneurysms or their complications.

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

References

Lawrence PF, Rigberg DA. Arterial aneurysms: etiology, epidemiology, and natural history. In: Sidawy AN, Perler BA, eds. Rutherford's Vascular Surgery and Endovascular Therapy. 10th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2023:chap 71.

Lee JJ, Mambelli DD, Britz GW. Surgical approaches to intracranial aneurysms. In: Winn HR, ed. Youmans and Winn Neurological Surgery. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2023:chap 435.

Mills JL, Zachary Sr, Pallister S.  Peripheral arterial disease. In: Townsend CM Jr, Beauchamp RD, Evers BM, Mattox KL, eds. Sabiston Textbook of Surgery. 21st ed. St Louis, MO: Elsevier; 2022:chap 63.

  • Cerebral aneurysm

    Cerebral aneurysm - illustration

    An aneurysm is a sac-like protrusion of an artery caused by a weakened area within the vessel wall. If a cerebral (brain) aneurysm ruptures, the escaping blood within the brain may cause severe neurologic complications or death. A person who has a ruptured cerebral aneurysm may complain of the sudden onset of the worst headache of my life.

    Cerebral aneurysm

    illustration

  • Aortic aneurysm

    Aortic aneurysm - illustration

    Abdominal aortic aneurysm involves a widening, stretching, or ballooning of the aorta. There are several causes of abdominal aortic aneurysm, but the most common results from atherosclerotic disease. As the aorta gets progressively larger over time there is increased chance of rupture.

    Aortic aneurysm

    illustration

  • Intracerebellar hemorrhage - CT scan

    Intracerebellar hemorrhage - CT scan - illustration

    Intracerebellar hemorrhage shown by CT scan. This hemorrhage followed use of t-PA.

    Intracerebellar hemorrhage - CT scan

    illustration

    • Cerebral aneurysm

      Cerebral aneurysm - illustration

      An aneurysm is a sac-like protrusion of an artery caused by a weakened area within the vessel wall. If a cerebral (brain) aneurysm ruptures, the escaping blood within the brain may cause severe neurologic complications or death. A person who has a ruptured cerebral aneurysm may complain of the sudden onset of the worst headache of my life.

      Cerebral aneurysm

      illustration

    • Aortic aneurysm

      Aortic aneurysm - illustration

      Abdominal aortic aneurysm involves a widening, stretching, or ballooning of the aorta. There are several causes of abdominal aortic aneurysm, but the most common results from atherosclerotic disease. As the aorta gets progressively larger over time there is increased chance of rupture.

      Aortic aneurysm

      illustration

    • Intracerebellar hemorrhage - CT scan

      Intracerebellar hemorrhage - CT scan - illustration

      Intracerebellar hemorrhage shown by CT scan. This hemorrhage followed use of t-PA.

      Intracerebellar hemorrhage - CT scan

      illustration


    Review Date: 5/2/2022

    Reviewed By: Amit M. Shelat, DO, FACP, FAAN, Attending Neurologist and Assistant Professor of Clinical Neurology, Renaissance School of Medicine at Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, NY. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David C. Dugdale, MD, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

    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. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., a business unit of Ebix, Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
    © 1997- adam.com All rights reserved.

     
     
     

     

     

    A.D.A.M. content is best viewed in IE9 or above, Firefox and Google Chrome browser.
    Content is best viewed in IE9 or above, Firefox and Google Chrome browser.