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What Is a Renal Artery Aneurysm?

The kidneys and renal veins and arteries.
The anatomy of a kidney, including the renal artery in red.
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  • Written By: Amy Hunter
  • Edited By: Andrew Jones
  • Last Modified Date: 08 August 2014
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A renal artery aneurysm is a weak area in the artery that goes to the kidney. The majority of renal artery aneurysms are small and do not require treatment, but larger aneurysms, some specific types of aneurysms, and those in women of childbearing age typically require treatment. Treatment for a renal artery aneurysm involves surgery.

Of the aneurysms that affect the renal arteries, there are four categories. A fusiform aneurysm bulges out on every side of the artery, while a saccular aneurysm only bulges on one side. An intrarenal aneurysm is located on an artery inside of the kidney. A dissecting renal artery aneurysm is often painful. It is caused by a tear in the inner layer of the artery, resulting in a weak area in the wall of the artery.

Renal artery aneurysms develop for a variety of reasons, including congenital weakness and trauma. They typically do not have symptoms, and many are diagnosed while the healthcare provider is screening for other issues. About 90 percent of individuals with renal artery aneurysms are hypertensive, however hypertension is common in the general population as well. Individuals with dissecting aneurysms may experience blood in the urine and flank pain.

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Individuals with small aneurysms, typically less than 3/4 inch(2 cm), who are not experiencing symptoms, often do not require treatment. The healthcare provider will monitor the renal artery aneurysm to make sure it is not getting larger. Individuals with larger aneurysms, aneurysms that are affecting the flow of blood to the kidneys, causing hypertension, getting larger, or dissecting aneurysms require treatment. Pregnant women are at an increased risk of ruptured aneurysms, so they, along with women of childbearing years, typically undergo treatment as well. Surgical correction is used to treat the affected artery.

The danger of a renal artery aneurysm is that it may rupture. A ruptured aneurysm is very serious; it can shut down the affected kidney and even cause death, due to blood loss. Other conditions that affect the renal system include stenosis, a blockage in one of the arteries of the kidneys; thrombosis, a clot in an artery or vein leading to or from the kidneys is another common condition. Atheroembolic renal disease develops when plaque from a large artery breaks off and travels through the bloodstream, blocking smaller arteries in the kidneys. Individuals most at risk for developing renal problems, including aneurysm, are women, individuals with existing hypertension, diabetes, and those who smoke.

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