What is an Aneurysm?

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  • Written By: Sherry Holetzky
  • Edited By: L. S. Wynn
  • Last Modified Date: 17 January 2019
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From the Greek, the word aneurysm means, "dilating or widening," which is exactly what happens to a blood vessel when aneurysm occurs.

This condition can be compared to a blister, but one that occurs inside the body. While there are different types, the most common is cerebral. Cerebral aneurysm occurs when the arteries that are responsible for supplying blood to the brain weaken.

The artery weakens, and as blood continues to flow through the weakened point, that section of the artery 'balloons' out. With continued pressure to the weakened area, the aneurysm may eventually burst, often causing dire consequences, such as stroke, brain death, or fatal loss of blood.

Rupture is not always fatal, however, and immediate treatment may save the patient's life. Surgery to clip the aneurysm or to insert a stint for blood flow may be indicated. This kind of surgery is said to be safe and effective and may be the best option to prevent future bleeding, water on the brain, and thinning of the arteries.

The condition can be caused by illness or injury, but some people are genetically predisposed to aneurysm due to poor elasticity of their arteries. Other risk factors include blockages such as plaque, cigarette smoking, high blood pressure, and blood infections. The condition develops wherever the pressure is the strongest, commonly in areas where blood vessels divide and branch off to other areas of the body.


The condition frequently goes unnoticed since there may not be symptoms until a rupture occurs, or symptoms may mimic other conditions. Headaches are the most common symptom of cerebral aneurysm, but many people ignore headaches, or simply take an aspirin and lie down. If you experience neck pain, pain in the face, blurred vision, or difficulty talking along with intense headache, you should see your doctor immediately. Your doctor can examine you to rule out other problems and may advise an MRI or CT scan.

If an aneurysm is discovered, the doctor will recommend regular check ups to observe it, or suggest treatment if rupture is likely, based on the size and type. Treatment options may include medication to lower blood pressure, or surgery may be necessary, depending on the patient's overall health.


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Post 3

@Magnette - Wow. That's awful about your cousin. My heartfelt condolences to you and your family.

Post 2

@Theborgrote, your mother was indeed quite lucky. One of my cousins died from an aortal aneurysm. He used to race stock cars at a local dirt track. He started the race in tenth (last) place and had worked his way to the front of the pack. He had just passed the lead car when all of a sudden he veered off the track and slammed into a wall.

The initial reaction was that something went wrong with his car - the steering perhaps. But the autopsy later showed that the aneurysm in his heart burst and likely killed him before he hit that wall. Very sad.

Post 1

My mom had surgery for an aortal aneurysm several years ago and, after a long and slow recovery, is now doing fine. Obviously, open heart surgery is a rather traumatic event for anyone, especially someone in their late 60s, as she was at the time.

She was very lucky that the aneurysm was detected. I don't remember all the exact details, but she went to see her doctor regarding some circulation problems she was having in her feet. Somehow, this very alert doctor determined that this circulatory problem was because of the aortal aneurysm in her heart. She was immediately referred to a heart specialist who recommended immediate surgery, within just a couple of days. As I mentioned, she was quite lucky.

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