Overview

An aneurysm is an abnormal bulge or ballooning in the wall of a blood vessel. An aneurysm can burst (rupture), causing internal bleeding and often leading to death. Aneurysms usually don't cause symptoms, so you might not know you have an aneurysm even if it's large.

Aneurysms can develop in several parts of your body, including:

  • The aorta — the major blood vessel carrying blood from your heart to vital organs (aortic aneurysm)
  • The section of aorta that passes through your abdomen (abdominal aortic aneurysm)
  • The section of aorta that passes through your chest (thoracic aortic aneurysm)
  • Blood vessels supplying blood to your brain (brain aneurysm)
  • Blood vessels in other parts of your body, such as your legs, groin or neck (peripheral aneurysm)

Some small aneurysms have a low risk of rupture. To determine your risk of rupture, your doctor will ask questions about your symptoms and medical and family history, and check the size, location and appearance of your aneurysm. Your doctor will consider your risk and the risk of treatment to decide whether to monitor or repair the aneurysm.

Mayo Clinic Minute: What is an aneurysm?

An aneurysm is an abnormal bulge or ballooning in the wall of a blood vessel.

"A proportion of these patients will go on to have a rupture. And the challenge with rupture is that it's unpredictable."

Dr. Bernard Bendok says a ruptured aneurysm is a medical emergency that can cause life-threatening bleeding in the brain.

"The typical presentation is somebody who has the worst headache of their life."

Fast treatment is essential. It includes open surgery, or less-invasive options, such as sealing the ruptured artery from within the blood vessel with metal coils and/or stents.

Dr. Bendok says 1 to 2 percent of the population have aneurysms, and only a small percentage of that group will experience a rupture. People who have a family history of aneurysms, have polycystic kidney disease, connective tissue disease, and people who smoke are at increased risk of rupture, and should consider screening. If a rupture happens, fast treatment can save lives.

Clinical trials

Explore Mayo Clinic studies testing new treatments, interventions and tests as a means to prevent, detect, treat or manage this disease.

Aneurysms care at Mayo Clinic

March 06, 2020
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