The heart’s artery wall weakens to cause enlargement in the artery, and this is called an aneurysm. The aneurysm when ruptured can even lead to fatal consequences, and unfortunately, not many symptoms are found. Most of the times, a bulged or distended artery is not dangerous, and there are not many symptoms. In the advanced and severe stages, they can, however, become life-threatening. Multiple arteries can be affected by this condition, but commonly the arteries that supply blood to the brain and heart are affected. The chances of development of aneurysm and the chances of the same getting ruptured vary from individual to individual.
Based on the location in the body, types of aneurysm are classified. Of all, the most serious are the bulges in the heart and brain. The size of the bulge decides the risk. The bulge can happen in all sides of the blood vessel and is called Fusiform. If the bulge is on only one side, then it is termed saccular aneurysm.
The largest artery is the aorta. Beginning from the heart it goes up to the abdominal cavities. It covers the entire chest in the passage. The diameter of this artery is a maximum of 3 cm. But, when there is aneurysm, it can swell up to 5 cm. The aortic aneurysm that is seen in major cases is the one that is formed in the artery that runs around the abdomen. It can even bulge up to 6 cm, and often requires surgical intervention, else can be fatal. The aneurysm in the aorta that runs through the chest is the next common bulge. Again surgical intervention is necessary. But, of the aortic aneurysms only 1/4th happen in the thoracic region.
When ruptured, the aneurysm in the brain can lead to death within 24 hours. Intracranial aneurysm is the bulge present in the arteries that supply blood to the brain. They are also called as berry aneurysm because of their shape. Nervous system disorders or impairment are common in the survivors of the cerebral aneurysm rupture. This is also a risk factor of stroke that is called subarachnoid haemorrhage.
In peripheral artery, the aneurysm can occur in various places and further classified into types based on this. When it occurs near the spleen it is called the splenic artery aneurysm. Mesenteric artery aneurysm is the term used when it occurs in the artery that transport the blood to intestines, and termed femoral artery aneurysm when it occurs near the groin. When occurring in the neck it is termed as the carotid artery. When the aneurysm occurs in the bowels or kidneys, it is called visceral aneurysm.
The worst part about aneurysm is that it is typically silent, in the majority of the cases. Only when there is a rupture, it is noticed. This means the life-threatening condition can be surviving without any notice. Even without having to rupture, these bulges can cause enough damage to health.
- The aneurysm can barricade the flow of blood to the organs. The blood clots are formed due to this condition, preventing the flow of blood to smaller organs.
- The thromboembolism or prevention of blood supply is the major reason for stroke.
- However, when it comes to an abdominal aneurysm that keeps growing faster, a few symptoms are experienced by the patients. They experience abdominal pain, pulsating sensation in the abdominal region and lower back pain.
- When aneurysm occurs near the neck area, there can be breathing difficulties and problems in swallowing. Pain in the chest, upper back and jaw can be felt.
- The cause of aneurysm is deeply associated with the symptom rather the aneurysm itself. For instance, when vasculitis causes the bulge, weight loss and fever are the symptoms.
- When the aneurysm ruptures, pain, slimy skin, nausea, vomiting, shock, dizziness and low blood pressure are the symptoms.
The factors that cause aneurysm are not yet clear completely. However, a few factors can contribute to the condition. There can be any blockage or fat deposits in the artery. Due to the pressure, the artery walls become weak and lead to the bulge. The heart needs to pump a lot faster to send blood pushing the blockage. The arteries around the heart region are damaged due to this. A few other reasons are also known to cause aneurysm, but the exact cause is to be still identified.
- The atherosclerotic disease can lead to aneurysm. The buildup of plaque is a result of this condition. The plaque is a hard substance, and when formed can damage the walls of the arteries. The blood flow is interrupted and aneurysm is formed.
- High blood pressure is another reason for the occurrence of aneurysm. When suffering from this condition, the patient’s blood flow is of the higher rate. The gush of blood can lead to the damage of the artery walls. When the high blood pressure is not controlled, it can lead to severe complications like rupturing of the bulges in the arteries. The blood pressure is normal when it is 120/80 mm per Hg. When the rate goes higher, there are several health issues like heart problems, blood vessel and circulation problems one can face.
Aneurysm has no symptoms most of the times, and hence diagnosis is also not easy. When different types of screenings are done, there are chances of monitoring the occurrence of aneurysm.
- US Preventive Services Task Force recommend ultrasound scan for men over 65 years of age, if they have smoked more than 100 cigarettes. However, the same is not applicable for women, as they are less at the risk of this condition. Even if the women smoke, the screening is not mandatory for them.
- An MRI scan can be used to identify the existence of the aneurysm, provided if it has not ruptured yet.
- If the aneurysm is suspected to the ruptured, or if the rupture is found, then CT scan is the best option. This holds true when there is a risk of bleeding in the area in and around the brain.
- If the aneurysm is present in the area around the heart and has ruptured, then an angiogram is used to identify the exact location of the bulge and rupture. An emergency surgery is needed in this case.
Certain factors can accelerate the growth of aneurysm and increase the chances of it getting burst.
- Smoking and use of tobacco can do much harm if there is a bulge in the artery
- Hypertension can cause blood to flow faster in the arteries, which can lead to the formation of the bulge in the artery or can cause the bulge to rupture faster.
- Poor diet is another risk factor
- It is found that a sedentary lifestyle and excess weight can increase the risk of aneurysm.
- Enraptured aneurysm seldom comes out of the veil, but when ruptures, it can be life-threatening.
- It can not only lead to stroke, but also to coma
- Vasospasm and long term or short term brain damage are also on the cards.
- The type and the severity determine the chances of recovery and survival.
- Complications can be fatal in at least 25% of people for 6 months.
A congenital aneurysm is not something that can be prevented. This means the defect in the arteries by birth can lead to this condition. It can only be treated and cannot be prevented. But, when taken, a few measures, can help keep this condition at bay.
- Quit smoking : Smoking can lead to the rupture of the aneurysm happen faster. Regardless of the location of the bulge, the risk factor is high for the smokers. Quitting smoking can help one to come out of the severity of the condition faster.
- Managing blood pressure : Following the right diet measures, good exercising schedule, and medications can help one stick to a healthy blood pressure. High blood pressure can mean the chances of the condition going higher. One can also try various relaxation techniques to ensure the blood pressure is maintained in a healthy manner.
- Reducing weight : Excess weight can put extra pressure on the heart. This means that the artery walls face extra pressure, which is why aneurysm occurs. Reducing weight gradually is the right way to deal with the problem. Crash diets can create another set of problems.
- Healthy diet : A diet that is rich in protein, carbs and adequate fats is what you need to take. Cholesterol can be raised and can build blocks in the arteries if the diet is filled with fatty foods. Processed and junk foods can add to the weight, and can improve blood pressure rather than health. A diet with whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables are recommended.
The treatment plan for aneurysm depends on the location and severity of the bulge. Different types of aneurysm need different treatment plans.
- Aortic aneurysms that occur in the upper chest are operated immediately.
- The bulges in the lower chest and in the abdominal region are not considered fatal. They are treated with watchful waiting. Depending on the size the medications vary. A surgery is required only if they grow more than 2 inches, or keep growing or cause symptoms.
- A graft is involved in the surgery. An artificial tube is called a graft, and this is inserted in the weakened section. A team including assisting surgeons, an anesthesiologist, and surgical nurses, led by cardiologist usually performs the surgery. Clamps are placed above the artery by the surgeon, and flow of blood to the part of the aorta is prevented. The other vessels still work, and the flow of blood to heart and brain is not disrupted. The balloon-like bulging is cut out. It is replaced with the graft. Now the clamps are removed.
- In a few cases, the pressure on the wall of the artery is reduced by inserting a fabric vessel. This procedure called endoaneurysmorrhaphy can be chosen by the surgeon based on the condition.
- The recovery time is a bit long, and hostile stay for around 1 week is required. Medications are given to prevent fluid build-ups. Medications to prevent blood clots are also prescribed for 6 weeks.
- Catheter embolization is a less invasive surgery performed to treat certain types of aneurysm. The synthetic materials are called embolic agents. This method is used to prevent abnormal bleeding. The abnormal connections between arteries and veins are closed. Aneurysm can be effectively treated through this procedure. This is less invasive than the open surgery, and the recovery time is very less as a result.
- This procedure can be chosen based on the severity and the recent medical history of the patient. Before this procedure, aspirin and blood thinners should not be taken. These should be stopped at least a few weeks before the procedure. This is an effective alternative to the conservative open surgery.
The initial signs of aneurysm are not from the condition but due to the cause behind it. The complications most of the times arise due to the rupture. Any complication is not experienced before the bulge is bombed. But, not only the rupture of the aorta or the thromboembolism can be threatening, but there are other complications too.
- Severe back pain : When the bulge is around the upper chest and is about to rupture or ruptures, there can be severe back pain. Needless to stay, unbearable chest pain can also accompany.
- Angina : Angina is a type of chest pain. A few types of aneurysms can lead to this pain. This pain is so severe that it can also result in a heart attack, and thus become fatal.
- An extreme headache : a Headache above the tolerance level can be experienced if there is a bulge in the arteries that carry blood to brain ruptures. This is no ordinary headache.
Rapid heartbeat and low blood pressure are also few of the complications experienced.
Aneurysm cannot be identified unless it ruptures. There are no symptoms that bring the condition to the light. The best way to stay alert is to go for periodic health checkups.
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