An aneurysm is an abnormal ballooning or enlargement of a blood vessel. Blood vessels are
tubes that carry blood throughout the body.
The aorta is the body’s largest artery and carries blood from the heart to the rest of the body.
The aorta travels through the chest (thoracic aorta) and the abdomen (abdominal aorta).
Aneurysms are caused when the lining in the wall of a blood vessel becomes weakened and
expands in size. Over time, vascular disease, injury or an inherited defect of the tissue within
the artery wall can cause a weakness of the vessel.
Aneurysms can occur anywhere, but are most common in the aortic, iliac and femoral artery.
- Sudden blood pressure drop, fainting (upon rupture of aneurysm)
- Pain in abdomen or lower back
- Chest pain
- Constant gnawing pain that occurs over hours or days
- Sudden onset of severe stabbing pain
- Cough, shortness of breath (thoracic aneurysm)
- Difficulty swallowing
- Weight loss
- Bowel obstruction
- High blood pressure
- Having a close relative (parent, brother or sister) who had an aneurysm
- Having blood vessel disease in other parts of the body
- Age: over 55 for males and over 65 for females
- Injury to aorta from a motor vehicle accident or stabbing
How it is Diagnosed:
- Ultrasound: sound waves are created to create an image of the blood vessels
- CT Scan (Computed Tomography): a series of x-rays are taken with a special x-ray device and a computer creates a picture of the aneurysm
- MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging): creates images by analyzing energy released by tissues in the body after exposure to a strong magnet
- Monitoring - A small aneurysm is unlikely to rupture. Your physician may suggest regular monitoring until it reaches a certain size. This would include imaging tests at least once a year to monitor the rate of growth and size
- Reducing your risk factors
- Being alert for symptoms of rupture - severe back pain and tenderness in your stomach; lightheaded, dizziness, or loss of consciousness
- Endovascular Repair - depending on where the aneurysm is located and how complex it is, an endovascular repair with artificial graft may be an option
- Open Surgery - surgery involves a soft plastic graft that is sewn to the aorta above and below the aneurysm. With thoracic aneurysms the aortic valve may also be affected and need to be repaired or replaced