If you have a weak spot in one of your arteries, it can form a balloon-shaped aneurysm, which will block blood flow. Arteries are the blood vessels that bring oxygen-rich blood to all parts of your body. While the cause of aneurysms is unknown, we do know there are certain factors that increase your risk, including:
- High blood pressure (hypertension)
- High cholesterol
- Personal or family history of aneurysms
If an aneurysm ruptures, it can cause internal bleeding and requires immediate medical attention.
Symptoms of aneurysms include:
- Clammy skin
- Low blood pressure
- Nausea and vomiting
- Rapid heart rate
Aneurysms can occur anywhere in the body. The most common types of aneurysms are the aortic aneurysm and the leg/popliteal aneurysm. Other important types of aneurysms include:
- Iliac aneurysms occur in the wall of the iliac artery, located in the pelvis.
- Carotid artery aneurysms affect the carotid arteries, which bring oxygen-rich blood to the brain.
- Renal artery aneurysms arise in the blood vessels that in the carry blood from the heart to the kidneys.
- Splenic artery aneurysms affect the splenic artery, which supplies blood to the spleen, an organ that helps filter the blood as part of the immune system.
- Thoracic aortic aneurysms occur in the upper part of the aorta, the major blood vessel that supplies oxygen-rich blood from the heart to head, brain, and arms.
- Visceral artery aneurysms happen in the arteries that supply blood to your liver, spleen, kidneys, and intestines.
Diagnosis and Treatment
We typically diagnose aneurysms using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), computerized tomography (CT) scans, or ultrasound.
If you have this condition, we typically treat it with surgery, through either open surgery or a minimally invasive (endovascular) procedure. We choose the most appropriate approach based on the type of aneurysm you have, its size, and its precise location in your body, as well as your overall health. At Mount Sinai, the surgical options for your treatment include:
- Endovascular techniques involve making a small incision in the wrist or groin and inserting a thin wire (called coil embolization) or a mesh tube (stent) covered with fabric. The goal is either to close off the aneurysm (using coils) or to reinforce artery wall and keep the damaged area from rupturing (using stents and possibly grafts as well). A newer approach uses liquid embolization, which solidifies into a spongy substance that serves the same purpose. Endovascular techniques have minimal complications and very short hospitalization and recovery times. Our approach does not end after surgery; we monitor your care long term, to make sure you remain healthy.
Open surgical repair is the traditional approach. It involves cutting out the aneurysm and reconnecting the arteries by suturing a graft between arterial ends. Our highly trained vascular surgeons have extensive experience with this challenging procedure, which often takes three to four hours. The risk of complications is low, but you may need to stay in the hospital for 5 to 10 days. Full recovery can take up to four or six weeks.