An aneurysm is an abnormal swelling or bulge in the wall of a blood vessel, such as an artery. It begins as a weak spot in the blood vessel wall, which balloons out of shape over time by the force of the pumping blood. Usually, aneurysms develop at the point where a blood vessel branches, because the ‘fork’ is structurally more vulnerable.
An aneurysm may have no symptoms (asymptomatic) until it is either very large or it ruptures. Symptoms depend on which blood vessel is affected.
Some of the causes of aneurysms include:
- a weakness in the blood vessel wall that is present from birth (congenital aneurysm)
- high blood pressure (hypertension) over many years resulting in damage and weakening of blood vessels
- fatty plaques (atherosclerosis) resulting in a weakness of the blood vessel wall
- inherited diseases that may result in weaker than normal blood vessel walls
- trauma, such as a crush injury.
The cause sometimes remains unknown.
Depending on the location of the aneurysm, some of the possible complications of an untreated aneurysm include:
- blood clots within the aneurysm
- compression of nearby nerves, if the aneurysm is large enough
- impaired blood circulation beyond the point of the aneurysm
An aneurysm is diagnosed using a number of tests including:
- physical examination
- ultrasound scans
- computed tomography (CT) scans or CT angiograms
- magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or MR angiograms
The aneurysm is often excised from the involved artery. The gap between the blood vessel is reconstructed with graft from the vein.