What Is an Aneurysm?
Aneurysm is a localized dilation of the wall of a blood vessels. Aneurysms
are most prominent in the aorta but can also occur in peripheral vessels
and are fairly common in the lower extremities of older people. The cause
of aneurysm can be a result of aging or disease and it can be congenital
which means born with the defect.
The symptoms of aneurysm depends on the location of the aneurysm with the
common sites at the abdominal aortic artery, the intracranial muscles
and the aorta. Note that many aneurysms are without symptoms and can only
be discovered by feeling or on x-ray films during an examination. However,
when symptoms do occur, they may include a pulsing sensation and pain
if the aneurysm is pressing on internal organs. A ruptured aneurysm produces
sudden and severe pain. In other cases, aneurysm may leak blood causing
pain without the rapid deterioration characteristic of a rupture. Clots
may often form in aneurysm which creates danger.
There are some tests which can be done to detect aneurysm. First off is
the angiogram which is an x-ray exam of the arteries, veins or heart chambers.
There is the MRI which is a diagnostic technique that uses the response
of atoms to a strong magnetic field to produce cross-sectional images.
The Spinal tap is another way to diagnose aneurysm which is a puncture
of the spinal cavity with a needle to extract spinal fluid for diagnostic
purposes. Ultrasound uses high-frequency sound waves to produce an image
of an organ. Echocardiography may be used which uses ultrasound waves
to visualize structures within the heart. Lastly, x-rays may also be obtained.
To treat aneurysms, drugs may be prescribed to lower the blood pressure
and to reduce the risk of rupture. However, some aneurysms such as the
abdominal aneurysm must be treated surgically, especially if it is large
and increasing in size. Enlarging thoracic aneurysm should also be considered
for surgery. Finally, a dissecting or ruptured aneurysm requires immediate
For more information on Pomona Valley Hospital Medical Center's Stead
Heart & Vascular Center, please call 909.865.9858.