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What is an aneurysm?

An aneurysm is a region of swelling or ‘ballooning’ of an artery caused by a weakness of the blood vessel wall at this site. Aneurysms can be dangerous if they get to a certain size, as they become more likely to leak or burst.

An aneurysm could potentially form in any artery in the body, but the most common places are the abdominal aorta (the largest blood vessel in the body, which carries high pressure blood from the heart to the legs and abdomen), and the popliteal arteries behind the knees.

Most abdominal aortic aneurysms are discovered by chance during scans of tests for other abdominal problems, and are not symptomatic.

If you are sent to the Vascular Lab for a scan to check for an aneurysm, we will examine the area requested by the doctor, usually the tummy and/or behind the knees, using an ultrasound probe and some cool gel. We will then take a series of measurements of the blood vessels, and if there is a widening or aneurysm present we will ask you to come back to our department for follow up scans, to monitor any change in the size of the vessel over time.

The frequency of the follow up scans will be determined by the size of your aneurysm, and may be every 3months, 6 months, every year, or even just 2 yearly.

What happens if my aneurysm gets bigger?

We will keep your consultant up to date with any changes in the size of your aneurysm.

If the aneurysm gets to a certain size, the vascular consultant may decide it needs to be repaired, which involves an operation to replace the aneurysm with an artificial artery, to prevent it from rupturing or bursting.

Diagram of normal Aorta and Aneurysmal Aorta