We have a highly skilled team who can provide a wide range of services from diagnosis to treatment.
An aneurysm occurs when part of an artery wall weakens, allowing it to balloon out or widen abnormally. Aneurysms are classified by their location in the body. The arteries of the brain and heart are the two most common locations of a serious aneurysm.
Aneurysms can develop slowly over many years and often have no symptoms. An aneurysm occurring near the skin's surface may be painful and include swelling with a visible throbbing mass.
If an aneurysm is left untreated, the aorta's wall may continue to weaken. The artery wall will weaken and become vulnerable to a rupture. The risk of rupture increases as the diameter of the aorta grows.
Aneurysms often have no symptoms at first; many are first discovered by accident during an examination for another condition. If the aneurysm is pressing against nearby tissues, you may notice a deep, steady pain in your back, abdomen, or groin.
If it ruptures, it causes a severe, tearing pain in the chest, back, abdomen or brain. A ruptured aortic aneurysm can cause life-threatening internal bleeding and/or a stroke. Symptoms from a ruptured aneurysm may develop suddenly and include:
Sometimes the cause of an aneurysm is unknown. But these are some factors that make aneurysms more likely:
The majority of aortic aneurysms are caused by the hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis). The hardening develops when cholesterol and fat build up inside the arteries.
Atherosclerosis accelerates the breakdown of collagen and elastin, two proteins that make the walls of the aorta strong and elastic. Over time, the walls of the aorta weaken and become damaged. Elevated blood pressure can then cause the aortic wall to expand and bulge.
Other less common disorders can also cause an aneurysm:
If your doctor thinks you have an aneurysm in your aorta, you may get an ultrasound test. This test is painless and can locate and measure an aneurysm.
If your doctor is concerned that you have one in your brain, you may get a CT scan, or an invasive test called a CT angiogram. A dye is injected into an artery in an arm or leg and travels to your brain. The dye makes it easier for your doctor to see any problems. A picture of your brain is taken.
Other tests include:
A broken (ruptured) aneurysm needs emergency surgery. Otherwise, there is a low chance of survival.
An unruptured aortic aneurysm may just need to be watched if you don't have any symptoms. Your doctor may recommend medications and preventive measures instead. The decision to operate depends on several factors:
A large or rapidly growing aneurysm is more likely to need surgery. There are two options for surgery:
In a brain aneurysm case, the surgeon will only operate if there is a high risk of rupture. The potential risk of brain damage is too great.
Instead of brain surgery, patients receive guidance on monitoring and managing the risk of a ruptured brain aneurysm. For example, they may be asked to check their blood pressure regularly. If a brain aneurysm ruptures, surgery is likely. This is a medical emergency.
Preventing an aneurysm is not always possible. Some are congenital, meaning they are present from birth.
However, some lifestyle choices can reduce the risk:
Presbyterian Heart and Vascular Care has a skilled vascular care team who can provide a wide range of services from diagnosis to treatment. Their surgeons are trained in many different techniques and procedures, many of which can provide you with a shorter recovery period and less hospital time.