Arterial Aneurysms

Why are aneurysms dangerous?
Aneurysms can rupture, causing major and often fatal internal hemorrhage (bleeding).

How do I know if I have an aneurysm?
Large pulsation or mass in the neck, chest, abdomen, or legs; CT or MRI scan.

Treatment for Aneurysms
Nonsurgical and surgical treatment options.

What is an aneurysm?

A weakened, expanded artery anywhere in the body. Abdominal aortic aneurysm, peripheral (arm or leg) aneurysm, or thoracic (chest) aneurysm. Carotid Artery Disease Vascular disease involving atherosclerosis. Deep Vein Thrombosis Blood clot in vein, often in the thigh or lower leg, causing risk of stroke. Diabetes Problems Neuropathy and decreased circulation to legs and feet, leading to amputation if not treated. Diabetic foot wounds. Leg Ulcers Non-healing skin wound on the lower leg, foot, or toes. Lymphedema Swelling of the arms and legs due to buildup of lymphatic fluid. Mesenteric Ischemia Poor circulation to the intestines causing abdominal pain. Peripheral Artery Disease Claudication, lower extremity arterial disease (aortoiliac disease), arm artery disease, leg artery disease. Pulmonary Embolism Lung blood clot. Renovascular Conditions Decreased circulation to the kidneys, often causing kidney failure or high blood pressure. Spider Veins Small clusters of red, purple, or blue veins on the legs or ankles. Stroke Interruption of oxygen flow to brain caused by a blood vessel blockage. Thoracic Outlet Syndrome Narrowing of the space between the first rib and the collarbone, compressing the blood vessels and nerves to the arm. Varicose Veins Swollen veins visible through the skin, usually in the legs and feet.

Where do aneurysms occur?
Aneurysms are most commonly located in the aortoiliac region (the main arteries which begin in the abdomen and supply blood to the legs).

Aneurysms may occur in arteries anywhere of the body, including:

  1. thoracoabdominal region (the chest and abdominal cavities)
  2. carotid region (the artery in the neck that supplies the brain with oxygenated blood)
  3. popliteal region (the arteries in the backs of the knees)
  4. femoral region (the main arteries that supply blood to leg)

Aneurysms that occur in the arms or legs are known as peripheral aneurysms.

What causes aneurysms?
Aneurysms usually occur due to:

  1. hardening of the arteries ( atherosclerosis ) that can cause weakening of the arterial wall.
  2. general deterioration of the arteries that can accompany aging
  3. family history of aneurysms

More information about aneurysms is available on the Society for Vascular Surgery website

Back to Top

Why are aneurysms dangerous?

Aneurysms are dangerous because when the artery stretches, it becomes weakened. If the wall of the artery ruptures, or "pops", it can cause major and often fatal internal hemorrhage (bleeding). Larger aneurysms are more likely to break, but all aneurysms need to be monitored closely.

Many patients who have aneurysms are likely to develop aneurysms in other parts of their body (see above: "What is an Aneurysm"). Patients who have been diagnosed with an aneurysm need to see a vascular surgeon periodically, so that new aneurysms may be appropriately treated.

Back to Top

How do I know if I have an aneurysm?

Aneurysms are diagnosed when an abnormally large pulsation or mass is found in the neck, chest, abdomen, or legs (see above: "What is an Aneurysm").

Aneurysms can also be seen through:

  1. Physical examination. NYU's vascular surgeons are expert in detecting aneurysms solely by physically examining a patient
  2. X-ray
  3. CT (computed tomography) scan, also known as a "cat scan", or non-invasive imaging study involving small amounts of radiation exposure. A CT scan enables doctors to view what is going on in the inside of the body from the outside.
  4. Sonogram (ultrasound)
  5. MRI (magnetic resonance imaging), a machine that produces a detailed picture of the carotid arteries

Each of these diagnostic tests is performed on site at NYU Medical Center.

Once an aneurysm is found, a decision is made as to whether it needs to be treated, or whether it can simply be watched. More information about aneurysm diagnosis is available on the Society for Vascular Surgery website .

Back to Top

If you are still concerned, or think you may have other risk factors, speak to your primary care physician. YES: Based on your responses, you may be at increased risk for an abdominal aortic aneurysm Speak to your primary care physician about undergoing an abdominal ultrasound to detect an aortic aneurysm.

Back to Top

Treatment for Aneurysms

The goal of finding aneurysms is to treat them before any complications, particularly rupture, occur (see above: "Why are aneurysms dangerous?").

Once an aneurysm is found, a decision is made as to whether it can simply be watched or whether it needs to be treated (see above: "How do I know if I have an aneurysm?").

Minimally Invasive Aneurysm Treatment
Physicians treat certain aneurysms in the vascular laboratory by injecting clotting factors directly under ultrasound guidance.

Aneurysm Repair Surgery
Almost all aneurysms can be treated routinely with standard vascular surgical techniques. Today, vascular surgeons at NYU repair most abdominal aortic aneurysms using the endovascular approach.

Stent grafts and occasional surgical reconstruction are also used to treat and repair arterial aneurysms, especially abdominal aortic aneurysms.

Back to Top

NYU Langone Medical Center

550 First Avenue
New York, NY 10016
1-877-4-NYUCVI (698284)

Back to Top