What Is an Aneurysm?

An aneurysm is a bulge in the wall of one of your arteries, which are the vessels that carry blood from your heart to the rest of your body. A weak or damaged artery wall allows the tissue to stretch and balloon out into an aneurysm.

It’s very important to see your doctor if you suspect you have an aneurysm. If left unchecked, the aneurysm could burst and lead to internal bleeding, which is a medical emergency.

We provide immediate care for aneurysms, whether you’re seeing us for the first time or have visited us before. If you do come to Aurora Health Care as part of your regular care routine, we regularly check for aneurysms when we perform other tests, to catch problems early whenever we can.

Learn more about our world-class care.

Aneurysm Causes

Conditions or actions that weaken or damage your artery walls can lead to an aneurysm. These risk factors include smoking, atherosclerosis (buildup of plaque that narrows your arteries), high blood pressure and more.

Genetics can also play a role, with aneurysms running in some families. People with an inherited condition called Marfan syndrome, for example, face a higher risk of developing aneurysms. We treat many people with this condition at our Center for Marfan and Aortic Disorders. Learn more about Marfan syndrome.

You could also develop an aneurysm if you are:

  • Male: Men are more likely than women to have aneurysms.
  • 65 or older: Aneurysms are more common as you age.
  • Involved in a major physical trauma, like a car accident: Serious injuries can damage your arteries and lead to aneurysms.


Types of Aneurysms

While you can develop an aneurysm in any artery, they form more frequently in certain locations:

  • Aortic aneurysms: In your aorta, your body’s largest artery, which runs about 12 inches from your heart down the center of your body. There are two types:
    • Abdominal aortic aneurysms (AAAs): This arterial bulge occurs in the lower part of your aorta, down near your stomach.
    • Thoracic aortic aneurysms (TAAs): This type of aneurysm forms in your upper chest (thoracic area of your aorta)
  • Extracranial carotid artery aneurysms: In one of your carotid arteries on the sides of your neck.

World-Class Care

Aurora’s Specialized Aneurysm Care

We understand that hearing you may have an aneurysm isn’t easy. However, our team of experts is here to answer your questions and explain how we can help.

We offer:

  • Aneurysm screenings: We often screen people who have other heart or vascular conditions for possible aneurysms during diagnostic tests performed for other reasons. (Computed tomography, or CT scans, are one example.) We also routinely screen men who smoke and are over age 65. They are at high risk for abdominal aortic aneurysms (AAAs) that may not show symptoms.
  • Innovative research and treatments: Our doctors are regularly involved in the latest clinical trials. The result: you may have access to innovative aneurysm treatments and devices not otherwise available, such as:
    • Custom stents: We offer customized stent-grafts (mesh metal tubes inserted into your artery) to treat unusually shaped aneurysms. Without these custom stents, people need to undergo open surgical repair.
    • pBranch device: We are the only health system in Wisconsin offering this new device for treating juxtarenal aneurysms (located next to kidney arteries). It’s tough to fit stent-grafts in this area, but this innovative device is an effective, new option.
  • Coordinated appointments. Whenever possible, we try to arrange multiple appointments on the same day to save you time. For instance, we might arrange for you to undergo a CT scan right after your office visit.


When Should You See a Doctor About Aneurysm Symptoms?

Some aneurysms don’t trigger any symptoms. That’s why our doctors are vigilant about screening older patients (age can be a factor) or anyone who has risk factors that could lead to an aneurysm. We don’t want any aneurysms to go unnoticed.

However, if you do experience aneurysm symptoms, they typically vary based on where in your body the aneurysm occurs:

Diagnosis & Treatment

Thorough Evaluation & Treatment for Aneurysms

It’s critical to catch and treat aneurysms as quickly as possible. If you don’t have any symptoms but are at risk for developing aneurysms, talk to your Aurora medical team. We may want you to come in for regular aneurysm screening tests.

Diagnostic Tests

The most common tests we use to diagnose aneurysms include:

  • Angiography: An X-ray test of your blood vessels or organs using a special camera and dye
  • Radiographic testing:
    • Computerized tomography (CT) scan
    • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
  • Ultrasound: An imaging method that uses sound waves to create pictures of your body’s organs

Learn more about heart and vascular testing and diagnosis at Aurora.

Aneurysm Treatment Options

You may not need treatment for small aneurysms that don’t have symptoms. Instead, your doctor might monitor your aneurysm closely for any changes.

If your aneurysm is large or causing symptoms, we may recommend:

  • Medication: Prescription medication can help lower your blood pressure, relax your blood vessels and reduce the risk of the aneurysm bursting.
  • Endovascular grafting: Endovascular grafting is minimally invasive surgery that involve inserting a fabric-wrapped metal tube (stent) into your artery to strengthen it. We are a regional leader in these procedures.
  • Traditional aneurysm surgery: During traditional aneurysm surgery, your surgeon replaces or reinforces your weak artery section with a synthetic graft. Our vascular surgeons do more of these surgeries than any program in Wisconsin.

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