What is an Aneurysm
An aneurysm is an abnormally large bulge in an artery which is caused by the wall of the artery becoming week. The bulge can cause internal bleeding if it ruptures. Aneurisms can occur anywhere in your body though most commonly they are found in the heart, brain, legs or spleen.
Aneurysms generally start in the left ventricle and due to blood flow travels down towards the abdomen and into both legs. There are two types of aortic aneurysms, those being thoracic (in the chest cavity) and abdominal.
An aortic aneurysm can grow but usually it does so very slowly (1 to 2mm per year). Surgery is needed only when the risk of rupture becomes high. A large aortic aneurysm will measure 5.5cm.
Around 75% of aortic aneurysms occur in the abdomen and is relatively common. They usually affect about 1.5% of males over the age of 65.
Deaths from these aneurisms are rare accounting for 5000 in the UK each year.
They often form in the blood vessels deep in the brain and may not display any symptoms or signs.
If symptoms are present, they can include:
- Loss of vision or double vision
- Difficulties speaking
- Pain above or around your eye
- Weakness on one side of your face
- Loss of balance
- Short term memory problems
- Difficulty concentrating
When a brain aneurysm ruptures (most don’t), the pain can be severe and likened to being hit on the head. A ruptured brain aneurysm is a medical emergency.
Occurs in the popliteal artery found deep in the lower part of the thigh and upper part of the calf. Generally peripheral aneurysms are genetic, if they grow to over 2cm they require treatment.
Pain, swelling, weakness and numbness can indicate a leg aneurysm because the swelling compresses the nerves or a vein.
The third most common aneurysm in the abdomen. The risk of rupture is relatively small at around 6% but greatly depends on the size. Endovascular therapy is recommended.
Misdiagnosis of Aneurysms
The symptoms of an aneurism can be mistaken for other medical problems such as myocardial infarction, migraine headache, renal colic, urinary tract infections, duodenal ulcers and deep vein thrombosis.
In November 2016 it was reported by a national newspaper that three times as many people died from Aortic aneurysms in England than in America. In a joint study between the University of London and Harvard Medical School, it was found that between 2005 and 2012, a total of 29300 patients in England underwent corrective surgery in comparison with 278921 patients in the US for the same time period.
The study also found that 34 in every 100,000 people died from aneurisms in England whilst only 9 in every 100,000 died in the US. It is thought that England may not be performing preventive surgical interventions on at risk patients though there is no conclusive evidence to suggest that this is the reason for the higher death rate.