A short introduction
An aneurysm is the enlargement (“bulge”) of an artery caused by weakness in the arterial wall. The bulge can rupture and cause internal bleeding. However the complications with unruptured aneurysms is that they generally show no signs or symptoms. Aneurysms are commonly found in the brain, aorta (An artery in the heart), legs and the spleen.
To talk about symptoms, as said, unruptured ones will generally have no signs. However, those that are closer to the surface of the body may swell and also cause some pain. Ruptured aneurysms are much easier to be identified. Commons signs would be bleeding, an increased heart rate, pain or feeling dizzy/ lightheaded.
The shapes of aneurysms
I will only cover three shapes even though there are several.
The first of the three is a saccular aneurysm (commonly referred to as “berry” aneurysm). This form occurs when there is a weakness in the arterial wall and a ‘berry’ shape is formed when blood rushing towards its direction.
The second of the three is a fusiform aneurysm. This affects a whole region of the artery where the artery bulges around.
The last of the three is a dissecting aneurysm. This occurs when there is a tear in one of an artery’s several linings. Block can leak into the other layers and ‘balloon’ outwards which may block the artery
Let’s now assess who is most at risk.
First, age is a factor. As you grow older, you are more at risk, especially after the age of 60. Another risk is having a poor diet — one that is high in fats — this leads to high cholesterol. A poor diet may also lead to obesity, which is another health concern itself. Third, smoking, which itself has posed as a problem for health for many generations. Last, genetics. This last one is quite an unfortunate one, however if you have a family history of aneurysms or heart conditions(heart disease and heart attacks) then you most likely will be at risk of an aneurysm.
How can one prevent aneurysms?
Whilst there is nothing that assures the prevention of aneurysms, there is some things in our control that will lower the risks. Of course, a healthy, balanced diet is always a small solution that will prevent many grand issues. For the prevention of aneurysms, a significant lowering of fats in our diet is required. Another control is our exercise. Exercise, especially cardio, will greatly benefit you in many ways. Cardio will continuously improve our cardiovascular health which results in a substantial change in our lives. The last, and certainly not least, way of prevention is to quit smoking. I shall not ponder too much on the effects of smoking but it, undoubtedly, must be avoided as it affects our lives in a detrimental manner.
A diagnosis will determine the type of the aneurysm you may have.
Treatments depend on what type of aneurysm that you have and where it is located, typically it tends to be, surgery, medication or beta blockers. The surgery could of two: Neurosurgical clipping or Endovascular Coiling. The processes are quite different, I shall go into depth in the later section of this article. Now, both the medication and beta blockers treat blood pressure. They both treat high blood pressure and to lower blood pressure. This is done to keep aneurysms from rupturing. That is it for the basic treatments. The next section shall go in depth about the surgeries, should you wish to read it, otherwise, skip ahead.
Now, for the surgery. They both use general anesthetic.
A cut is made in the scalp or near the eyebrow region and a small flap of bone is removed to provide access to the brain. When the aneurysm is located, the neurosurgeon will seal it shut using a tiny metal clip that permanently clamps onto the aneurysm. Once the bone flap is replaced, the scalp or the eyebrow region is stitched together.
The actual clipping of the artery that the aneurysm is formed on is rarely needed. This only occurs when the aneurysm is particularly large or complex. Although, when it is necessary, it is often combined with a procedure, named “bypass”. Bypass is where blood flow is diverted around the clamped area using a blood vessel removed from another place in the body.
This procedure takes place by inserting a thin tube (“Catheter”) into the artery inside the leg or around the groin area. The tube is guided through a network of blood vessels, up into the head and then into the aneurysm. Thin platinum coils will be passed through the tube then leading to the aneurysm. Once the aneurysm is full of coils, blood is no longer able to enter it. This means, as the aneurysm is sealed off from the main artery, it is prevent from growing or rupturing.
Aneurysms are very serious conditions that affects anyone. In this article, I have displayed a basic and a short introduction into aneurysms. I hope I provided enough of a description for you to have an understanding of aneurysms.
Thank you for reading my article, I will be posting many more medical articles. — Dennis Limbu, pre-med student.
American Heart Association.
Brain Aneurysm Foundation
Stanford Health Care
Medically reviewed by Debra Sullivan, Ph.D., MSN, R.N., CNE, COI — Written by Brindles Lee Macon — Updated on September 29, 2018
“Trigger Factors and Their Attributable Risk for Rupture of Intracranial Aneurysms”
Monique H.M. Vlak, Gabriel J.E. Rinkel, Paut Greebe, Johanna G. van der Bom, and Ale Algra
5 May 2011
Brain Aneurym Foundation
Medically reviewed by Graham Rogers, M.D. — Written by Brindles Lee Macon — Updated on September 16, 2018
Medically reviewed by Andrew Gonzalez, M.D., J.D., MPH — Written by Ian Franks — Updated on September 29, 2018