What is an Aneurysm?

An aneurysm is a condition characterised by progressive dilation of the main artery that takes the blood from the heart to the legs and vital organs. Frequently this does not cause symptoms, so a person may be unaware they have it until it has become quite large. As the aorta expands, the risk of it bursting (or rupturing) increases. This is a life threatening condition requiring emergency surgery, but unfortunately many people do not survive long enough to get to hospital when this happens.

Why does it occur?

Risk factors for developing an aneurysm include high blood pressure,high cholesterol, smoking, age and male gender. Degeneration of the elastic fibres within the wall of the aorta leads to weakening and dilation over time. Some inherited conditions can predispose people to the formation of aneurysms, and rarely inflammatory disorders or infections are the cause. Screening programs for men are now being initiated across the country to help detect aneurysms before they cause problems.

What problems can they cause?

The greatest concern is that the aneurysm may rupture, which becomes more likely when the diameter of the diseased aorta exceeds 55mm in the abdomen or 60mm in the chest. Sometimes an aneurysm can cause pain in the abdomen or back, and occasionally may be noticed as a pulsating mass in the abdomen. Rarely debris within the aneurysm can break off and affect the circulation of the feet. If your aneurysm is over 60mm you must inform the DVLA, and if it is over 65mm you are not allowed to drive.

What are the reasons for treatment?

The ultimate aim of an aneurysm repair is to prevent it from rupturing and causing complications.


The medical information provided here is intended solely for patients of the London & Surrey Vascular Clinic, it is general information only and should not be used as a substitute for personal advice received when consulting your own surgeon face-to-face.

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